We’re a digital media company with three primary products: a website, newsletters and podcasts. We aim to make The Dispatch a place where thoughtful people can come for conservative, fact-based news and commentary that doesn’t come either through the filter of the mainstream media or the increasingly boosterish media on the right. Importantly, we want to build a genuine community, with regular engagement between those of us who work here and the readers and listeners who will pay our salaries.
The internet puts an unimaginable amount of information at our fingertips, and yet it makes knowledge and wisdom harder to grasp. Social media connects people in meaningful ways but also manages to make it more difficult for us to understand each other. It is less a World Wide Web linking us all together than an accelerant, quickening trends long in the works. Our confidence in the institutions that once anchored us was declining even before the internet became a fixture in our lives, but its arrival has only made us feel even less fixed to a common landscape.
Nowhere is this more true than in the world of journalism. Not only do we have too much noise and not enough signal, but the signals we should be heeding are often discounted as noise and the noise is marketed as prophecy. A great deal of excellent journalism is still available to those who want it, but one has to seek it out like a tourist trying to find a chapel amidst the neon signs of some dystopian red-light district.
The demand for “clicks” required by the dominant revenue structure of journalism today drives a need to pimp “hot takes” that, as the name suggests, shed more heat than light. The balkanization of the media landscape and the commodification of cheap opinion encourages outlets to emphasize quantity over quality. It’s easier—and considerably cheaper—to provide quick outrage to an audience eager for affirmation than it is to produce good reporting and thoughtful, fact-based commentary that might challenge consumers—and citizens.
If the media business is on shaky ground so, too, are our political parties. Partisanship may have been stronger in the 1850s, 1930s or 1960s, but the parties themselves have never been weaker. They are less functioning organizations motivated by a patriotic vision of what is best for the country—or even themselves—and more like competing brands willing to change their products based on whatever will sell this quarter. Though it may seem like an oxymoron, the country’s extreme partisanship is actually a function of this party weakness. Healthy parties mediate passions and reject passing fads in favor of long term success. As party power has diminished, media organizations have moved in to fill the void. Many news outlets do the work once properly carried out by the parties: opposition research, ideological messaging and even political organizing. As a result, much of what passes for political journalism is really party work by proxy.
This is true across the ideological spectrum, but it is most worrisome on the right. The conservative movement was not intended to be a handmaiden to a single political party. What is good for the Republican Party may be good for the conservative cause, and vice versa. But that is not axiomatically so. For instance, it would be an unalloyed victory for conservatives—and America—if the Democratic Party fully rejected socialism, abortion-until-birth and its growing obsession with wholesale gun confiscation. But that would not be good news for a Republican Party and conservative media complex increasingly invested in a strategy of polarization and demonization of Blue America. This points to the original purpose of the conservative movement, not just to defend those ideas, institutions and principles that make America an indispensable nation, but to persuade those who disagree with us. And persuasion is impossible in a hyperactive climate of paranoia, exaggeration and willful blindness to the splinters in our own eyes.
We did not launch The Dispatch as an indictment—of a politician, party or institution. We did not launch The Dispatch to change the world, to reimagine news and information, to fix the internet, or to ignite a movement. We have more humble objectives. We launched The Dispatch to do right as we see it, by providing engaged citizens fact-based reporting and commentary on politics, policy and culture —informed by conservative principles. And, importantly, to offer a community and forum for thoughtful discussion and civil disagreement. We will be timely and topical, but we won’t be slaves to the relentless pace of the news cycle. We will slow things down, deliberately—because we think the times require more deliberation. Whenever possible, we want to pause and think before we react, to research and report before sharing our views. The daily race to be wrong first on Twitter can be entertaining and instructive, but we have no interest in entering the competition. In short, we aim to zig in an era of zagging.
We don’t apologize for our conservatism. Some of the best journalism is done when the author is honest with readers about where he or she is coming from, and some of the very worst journalism hides behind a pretense of objectivity and the stolen authority that pretense provides. When we provide analysis, we endeavor to describe the opposing points of view with honesty and charity. When we report, we do so without concern for whether the facts prove inconvenient to any party or politician. We test our own assumptions and, we hope, challenge our readers to do the same. We expect people to disagree, but we hope they will see that we come to our positions honestly, without some unstated agenda.
At times, we inevitably run afoul of partisan agendas. That’s not only okay, it’s by design. We believe telling the truth is always its own defense.
We do not believe such a mission requires the sort of eat-your-spinach humorlessness or finger-wagging that often accompanies such endeavors. The Dispatch won’t last if we fail to provide what all readers should demand: lively and engaging writing that values the reader’s time.
We reject the advertising that makes clickbait seem so necessary. While we want as many readers as possible, we do not care a whit about traffic for its own sake. That’s why much of our content is delivered via newsletters uncluttered with distracting ad tech. We don’t sell or rent our lists to low-class marketers, disreputable spam merchants or political groups seeking to make a buck on outrage.
We don’t subject our readers to auto-play videos, pop-up or pop-under ads or any of the clickbait boxes that even respectable news outlets use to monetize actual fake news. If you see an urgent message from some group that needs your credit card number to avert catastrophe, please contact customer service because that will mean we’ve been hacked. In every regard, we try to err on the side of providing a quality reader experience, both in terms of substance and presentation.
This means we have put our faith and our prospects in the hands of those who want to be part of this. Membership, for us, isn’t just a fancy word for subscribers. We want friends and participants, not just customers. That’s why including our members in the conversation is central to our structure, not some gimmicky add-on.
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Right now, we are a small and merry band, aboard a pirate skiff with limited provisions amidst choppy waters crammed with well-equipped battleships, barreling through the smoking wrecks of larger vessels that came before us. But we believe we are not alone. We think there are many out there, of all ideological persuasions, hungry for what we are offering. As Basil King said, “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.” We believe that the mightiest force out there are the people eager to come along for the ride.
We not only hope you’ll come along for the ride, we hope you’ll help with the rowing.