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Why I’m Here

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Dear Friend:

On this, the last day of our 30-day free trial subscription drive, I’m going to tell you why I joined The Dispatch. It directly relates to my father and the example he set.

If I had to sum up my dad in one sentence, it would be this: He walks his talk. At no point in my life do I remember a complaint from him that wasn’t accompanied by action. Values aren’t values if they’re only spoken (thus, the culture of Twitter is alien to him). Values are values only if they’re lived. 

I’ve tried my best to apply that same code to my own life. Am I concerned about the decline of civil liberties? Then I should use my limited gifts and talents to litigate for their preservation. Do I want to preserve unborn life? Then I should raise money for pro-life causes and defend pro-life activists. Do I believe the Iraq War was honorable and just? Then I should put on a uniform and do my part.

Honestly, keeping to that code grew a bit more difficult when I changed careers. In a flash in 2015 I changed from being a lawyer and soldier who wrote a bit on the side to becoming a pundit and an analyst with a law degree. My job wasn’t to act. It was to speak.

Even though I was grateful for my job, it all felt a little bit strange. But that’s where The Dispatch comes in.

Almost as soon as I immersed myself in the media world, I could see its maladies. I’d spent my entire adult life pointing out the problems with the mainstream media. It was an ideological monoculture. Very few of its members understood (or even seemed to respect) people of orthodox or traditional religious faith. Especially during election seasons, partisanship seemed to overwhelm good judgment.

But then I watched, up close, as vast chunks of right-wing media became worse than the media outlets they despised. No, I’m not talking about National Review, my previous outlet. It’s a marvelous, indispensable institution run by former colleagues I like and deeply respect. And yes, I know there are many fine journalists scattered across conservative media, including at Fox News.

The dominant media culture, however, is deeply diseased. It’s addicted to rage, thrives on grievance, and consistently lies to its audience. The cultural effects have been horrific. I know many older Americans who are living out their golden years in a state of anger, unable to enjoy their considerable liberty and prosperity because they’re constantly told the nation they love is on the verge of collapse. 

So, what do you do when you see institutions lose their way? You try to walk your talk. You try to build a competing institution—one that places fact-based reporting and analysis at the center of its enterprise. While you acknowledge and own your ideological beliefs, you shun partisanship and fundamentally define yourself as neither red nor blue. And when outrage is the order of the day, you pause—take a deep breath—and try to discern the difference between a problem and a crisis. 

That’s why I made the internal decision to join The Dispatch the very instant Steve Hayes described his vision for the new company he and Jonah were starting from scratch. This is how I could do my best to walk the talk. 

Do we want the media to be better? Well then, build a better media institution.

So we took risks, all of us. Person by person, we Dispatchers jumped ship from more established media entities to roll the dice on our “pirate skiff.” And, thankfully, we’ve thrived beyond our projections and expectations. Because you’ve responded. Because you’ve felt the same needs that we did, and you’ve voted with your eyes and ears. You started reading and listening to something new. 

There are tens of thousands of people, however, who will read this email who are in but not yet all-in. You haven’t become a member. Not only are you missing out on some of our best reporting and analysis, you haven’t made a modest investment in the kind of media we need—the media that can help restore sanity to our national discourse and proportion to our national concerns. 

No, we’re not perfect. We’ll make mistakes. We’ll occasionally write or say things that might make you mad. But if you’re getting this letter, you know who we are. You know what we’re trying to do. Walk with us. For one month. We think you’ll want to stay. 


David French

David French is a columnist for the New York Times. He’s a former senior editor of The Dispatch. He’s the author most recently of Divided We Fall: America's Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation.