current-staff

Many, many readers have asked that core question since Wednesday’s post:

You’re just done? Everyone? Chris and Patrick and the gang aren’t holding down the domain? We could learn to love them; they seem like smart, dedicated folks. They lack your endearingly fallible, sometimes hysterical, always entertaining voice, but give them a shot, a trial run, something.

Another is more direct:

Please keep the Dish going without you. I’m in tears over the possibility of its ending. You’ve got the team, don’t you? PLEASE find a way!

Another:

You don’t owe me or other subscribers anything; you owe something to the creation that is the Dish. Keep it alive and figure out a sane way to remain involved. The community is ready to make this work.

Another notes:

Andrew, I remember you writing that you hoped that the Dish could continue and grow even if you moved on. I truly believe it could, can and will. Please let it try. It’s too important now. It’s not just about you and your blogging; it has grown bigger than that. I believe your “baby” can survive with you occasionally helping from afar.

How another reader puts it:

Your writing drew me here. Your team kept me here.

Another makes a compelling case:

Andrew, Chris, and the gang, are you ready for the next asshole who’s going to try to convince you to keep this thing going? Maybe the stress of running a company such as this, and blogging every day, is just too much. Maybe your staff has already landed new jobs in other places. Maybe The Dish has become a chain around Andrew’s leg. Maybe the blog has to completely die for Andrew to truly break free.

Screw that. Let’s talk about options for keeping The Dish alive and thriving.

There is a problem: Andrew needing to stop blogging (I understand and immensely respect this), and there are various solutions. Shutting down the blog completely is only one solution. In my selfish opinion, it isn’t the best solution. This blog is an institution. It can very easily live on without Andrew. That isn’t meant as any sort of insult. It is to Andrew’s credit that he has assembled a staff as talented and competent as he has.

Is Andrew the only one who needs to temporarily/permanently cease blogging, or have the majority of you all had enough? Is the grind too much for any normal person? If Andrew needs to stop, but the rest of you have any desire to continue on with this publication, why not make it work?

How about “Andrew Sullivan, Blogger Emeritus”? He can still break free completely. I mean completely. No day-to-day responsibilities. cartoon-patrick-chrisNot even weekly or monthly. Keep the mind on writing essays or books or anything he wants. Chris, Patrick, or Jessie can step up and steer the ship. Or bring someone else in for that role. Andrew will still own the blog, even in silence, kind of like Forbes or Bloomberg or plenty of other media entities with a founder’s name. Letting this blog die is a colossal waste of influence and talent. And you’re throwing away money that you don’t have to. I really think you can have it all.

What you’ve all built is unprecedented and cannot be replicated. I would give almost anything to have the opportunity that you have. You think you’ve reached the end of the road, but you haven’t. There are still so many possibilities, from content to contributors to engaging readers in creative ways to innovative revenue streams to strides you can and should make on the technical/design side. Don’t go work at other places. Stay here and make this website even better.

With all that said, what are the odds of being convinced to change you mind based on an email from an almost total stranger? I’m placing in at 1/1000. I’ll take it.

But another asks a key question:

Are you, or your team, unsure about continued subscriptions in your absence?

Yes, we have wrestled with that uncertainty for a while. One encouraging sign from a reader:

Like so many others, I will miss your voice when it leaves the blog. But if this makes you happy, I’m happy for you. And I will look forward to whatever new form your voice takes from here.

But I was also looking forward to renewing my Dish subscription. I went in for $250 last year and I was thinking $1k this year. I’ll up that to $5k if it will help your team keep the business running, even if there’s no Andrew here anymore. You can count on me to support whatever the next thing is.

Another gobsmacking gesture from a reader:

TL;DR Version: I’m renewing. Have your staff keep The Dish going. I’ll miss you when you quit blogging, but I’m still renewing at the $200/yr level.

This reader’s investment is just as meaningful:

You didn’t need to remove the “subscribe” button. I’m long-term unemployed and keeping a low profile on my “voluntary” payments. But I was going to subscribe once I got a job. Shrug. I decided that hitting the “subscribe” button was the clearest way to vote emphatically for The Dish to continue. You’ve spent 15 years building a community here and I DON’T want to see it go. And I’ll give you a $20 vote of confidence.

So would this reader:

If all those things you said about us readers are true, then we can handle it. Turn the Dish over to us – we won’t let you down. I’ll even finally subscribe. (Sorry I’ve been an asshole.)

On the other hand, readers also have this sentiment:

If Andrew is not going to blog anymore, I do not want to continue subscribing to the Dish. How do I opt out of auto-renewal?

Another has already backed out:

I’ve enjoyed the blog. But given changes, I’m canceling. Thanks so much for the good readings.

And another:

Please retire the Dish. I love it, but it needs to be done – hear me out.

Consider the contrasting paths of two other creative geniuses with legacies in defining an unconventional medium: Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts, and Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin & Hobbes. Schulz allowed Peanuts to remain in syndicate after he retired, and the once-lovable icon of schlubbery, Charlie Brown, has degenerated into an overused catch phrase “Good Grief” (interestingly, in the original Peanuts Christmas Special, it’s Linus who says that line). On the other hand, Watterson took C&H with him into retirement, to the initial dismay of both fans and financially-interested parties. But time has vindicated his decision, with C&H still one of the most beloved icons in all of comicdom.

So please take the Dish with you into retirement.

Another sees both sides:

Succession is tricky. For example, Garrison Keillor has tried to leave Prairie Home Companion several times, but inevitably, the enterprise was too personality-driven to survive the transition. He’s still cranking out Saturday evening shows that are widely loved, but nothing fresh has happened at PHC for years. There’s such a thing as loving something to death, and I’m glad that Andrew is bright and brave enough to back away before that happens to you or to us.

In the early days when Andrew took breaks, readers snarked unmercifully at the stand-ins until he returned. That doesn’t seem to happen so often now; the quality and the accent doesn’t change as noticeably as it did on earlier Andrew holidays. And yet … it’s hard to imagine the Dish without a big personality at its center.

So, it will be a tough transition. But if there’s a critical mass of the staff that’s up for it, turn the fucking pay-meter back on and start a renewal drive. You can keep me on auto-renew. And Andrew, I look forward to seeing that new book! Whatever you decide.

I’m a little emotionally drained right now, I have to say. Last night, I could barely sleep. I’m going to write about the amazing people I’ve worked with here at the Dish in the coming week. And our readers are absolutely right. This blog is a collective project, and has been for a very long while. Jessie, Chris and Patrick were my first three interns and they are now our top three editors, seven years later. They created the Dish in its current formulation. So did Chas, a fireball of love and energy. The Dish would be very different without Matt’s attention to the life of the soul as well as the mind; and has been immeasurably leavened by Alice’s inspired poetry selection. Jonah is simply a rock-star of intellectual fearlessness.

These people have become my family; in fact, we are family to each other. To have lived and breathed and worked and created this elixir together has been one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given. And the family goes back to all the former interns and staffers, to our beloved Zoe, Doug, Brian, Conor, Katie and Tracy and Zack and Gwynn and Maisie and Phoebe. And, of course, it also extends to Robert Cameron, who created this blog with me in 2000, designed it, worked tirelessly for it, and built the foundation on which all this has been constructed. If you think this blog is my creation, you could not be more wrong. This is their creation as well.

And, of course, it is also yours. We’ve all been deeply moved by the wave of protest that this community not simply be disbanded. There’s an intimacy to this conversation that makes this feel less like a business decision and more like a terrible family break-up. I understand all that. I’m deeply torn about it. It takes time to process.

So give us a little space to absorb this week. As of tomorrow, we’re going back to regular blogging. And let us know if you would be prepared to give the team a chance to figure this out or if you think it’s best to leave the Dish as a 15-year adventure that helped shape the Internet conversation.

This may be the denial part of grief. Or it could be something else.

See you in the morning.

(Top photo: Current staffers after an editorial meeting last month. Left to right, that’s Jonah (international editor), Matt (literary editor), some clapped-out old bear, Chris (editor and co-owner, in charge of the in-tray and Dishness), Patrick (editor and co-owner, in charge of Dish Prep and the budget), Jessie (editor, in charge of the weekend), and Chas (managing editor, aka Special Teams). In that photo were about to head to a bar to join poetry editor Alice, former staffers Tracy and Brian, and former interns Phoebe, Brendan, Doug, Gwynn, and Katie for a Dish holiday party. Zoe lives in Toronto now, so she couldn’t make it, and former staffer Conor and former interns Maisie and Zack live in DC. But here’s a composite of everyone, past and present:

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First column: Matt Sitman, Tracy Walsh, Alice Quinn, a small cartoon of Jessie Roberts (long story), Maisie Allison, Brendan James, and Dusty the Dish mascot. Second column: Patrick Appel, Jonah Shepp, Chas Danner, Zack Beauchamp, Doug Allen, and Phoebe Maltz Bovy. Third column: Chris Bodenner, Katie Zavadski, Brian Senecal, Gwynn Guilford, Zoe Di Novi, and Conor Friedersdorf.

The View From Your Window

Jan 30 2015 @ 1:45pm

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Patagonia, Arizona, 12.23 pm. The reader is arguably our best VFYW contributor ever, given all of her great submissions over the years, stretching back nearly to the beginning of the feature. We got her permission to print her full name below (given the Dish’s default anonymity policy):

Andrew, you have become a HUGE part of my day, my husband’s day (he is copied on this), and our marriage, as you have provided us much fodder for conversation as well as little digressions from me while on vacation, etc., to take VFYW pics. (Vince is very patient!) You have enhanced the classes we both teach at ASU through timely blog posts or less-timely ones we’ve saved for the future or dug back to find.

We have exposed our kids (now 26 – our daughter who was cat-called in DC and moved to Silver Spring, is now in Tucson getting her Master’s degree – and almost-24 – our son whose HuffPo blogs on being transgender you have linked to more than once, is still in San Francisco, living with his wonderful girlfriend and gainfully employed – yay!), who have also found you interesting, informative, and entertaining. I have shared many of your posts on Facebook and know I am personally responsible for getting you several more readers. :-) (It was lovely to click on the link in the pets’ deaths comment and see our sweet Zella looking back at me.)

You will be GREATLY missed, and if you ever can resume The Dish on a part-time basis (with the excellent Dish staff’s assistance, of course), we will follow you again, immediately. (Post only M-F AM, with the Window Contest on Saturday, and take off one week a month? No need for guest bloggers – Patrick, Chris, Zoe, et al. are FAB-U-LOUS!) But I am sure you have thought of every possible permutation …

I wish you God-speed and good health and much happiness, with Aaron and your parents and your family and your LIFE. If you ever want to visit Arizona, we have a guest house that you (and Aaron) would be welcome to stay in.

Kathleen Waldron
Phoenix, AZ

Her first view was posted on January 11, 2007:

Read On

Tweet Of The Day

Jan 30 2015 @ 11:00am

Just a reminder that the Dish has a Facebook page where you can leave any comment you like – the good, the bad, the ugly. Read all of them regarding “A Note To My Readers” here. And as always, you can tweet any praise or invective @sullydish.

Beard Of The Week, Ctd

Jan 30 2015 @ 9:00am

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Our long-time hirsute reader sends an update:

I kept going back to The Dish all day on Wednesday hoping there would be at least one more post after “A Note To My Readers“. It’s been ten years since I started visiting your blog on a daily or sometimes hourly basis, depending on what was happening in the world. I was honored to be a part of The Dish with my BOTD pics on not one but three occasions this year [here and here, including the year-end contest].

I will leave you with one last beard pic in your honor. You will be greatly missed.

Likewise. And every one of these BOTWs will be missed as well. Bonus beards after the jump:

Read On

A Poem For Thursday

Jan 29 2015 @ 8:00pm

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Dish poetry editor Alice Quinn writes:

If we replace the word “today” in the title of the poem below with “yesterday,” perhaps we have an apt valedictory poem to Andrew following his note of Wednesday about his sad (but for him also liberating) retreat from blogging for the time being. The poet is a certified journeyman farrier who lives near Livingston, Montana.

May you stay fleet of foot on your amazing journey, Andrew.

“Something That Happened Today” by Michael Earl Craig:

I picked up a little beagle today;
I held her between my hands.
Her little legs kicked like sausages.
She was trotting away from me in midair.

I picked up a little beagle today.
She was wet.
And a little cross-eyed.
Had she been swimming in the irrigation ditch?

I picked up a little beagle today.
What was she doing in the barn?
I know I know . . . this story is unfolding
way too fast.

(From Talkativeness © 2014 by Michael Earl Craig. Used by permission of Wave Books.)

How It Happened

Jan 29 2015 @ 7:15pm

Over a year ago, I did an interview with John Huey who was engaged in a long project at the Nieman Foundation of documenting how the Internet changed journalism. He sat me down and asked me to spell out the various stages of the Dish experiment and what I thought I was doing at the time. I forgot about it, but the Nieman Lab did a post on my quitting, and embedded two videos of the conversation and a transcript.

It’s kind of like a mega Ask Andrew Anything about the entire history of the Dish, from the very beginning. The second part of the interview is after the jump:

Read On

Face Of The Day

Jan 29 2015 @ 5:00pm

A Blogger Breaks Free: Blog Reax

Jan 29 2015 @ 3:15pm

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Joe Jervis completely understands my decision to stop blogging:

Man, do I get this. Anybody who does live news blogging knows all too well the havoc this kind of work can wreak upon your personal life. Sure, there’s great freedom to be able to work wherever you are and any time. But you also have to work wherever you are and at any time. I’ve blogged from trains, planes, buses, ferries, taxis, airports, “vacation” hotel rooms, and from the backseats of cars. I’ve angered and hurt close friends by leaving parties to update a breaking story or by turning down invitations because something is about to happen. (These days those invitations often close with a tart “if you can leave your computer.”) I do love what I do, but yeah, I get you Andrew Sullivan. I’ve strongly disagreed with you on many occasions, but this, I get.

Rod Dreher can relate:

Blogging professionally is one of those jobs like being a movie critic. Everybody thinks it’s easy, until they try to do it. It’s not so much that you have to stay “on” all the time as it’s that you can’t turn it off. When Andrew says he’s burned out, I believe him. In the past four years, I’ve written two books, and am in the process of finishing co-writing a third, all the while continuing doing this blog, and other writing projects.

And I’m not complaining! I really love my job. But for reasons outside of my control, the work got incredibly intense for the last three months of the year, and I lost my health again (though I seem to be bouncing back, Deo gratias). It’s stress. I regret to say that I don’t know how to unplug digitally. I can’t stand still in a line without checking e-mail, approving blog comments, living digitally. That’s messed up.

What’s even more messed up is that I love this stuff. I really do. This is the best job I’ve ever had, and the best I can imagine having. And every time I start feeling worn out, I’ll be driving and seeing some guy busting their butts on a road crew in the Louisiana sun, and I’ll realize how easy I have it.

Ross tweets:

Peter Suderman calls me “a formative influence” on his own writing:

Sullivan modeled for me what blogging could be—curious and informative and funny and personal and detailed and reader-friendly and important and enjoyably trivial, often all at the same time—while simultaneously introducing me to a vast array of ideas and voices that I might never have otherwise encountered. …

I’ll admit I didn’t read him nearly as much over the past couple years, but I still checked in occasionally, and I was always happy to see that he was still going. I’ll miss knowing that he’s writing and arguing and linking. He was enough of a fixture that it’s almost hard to imagine the blogosphere, as it used to be called, without him around. I hope he returns every now and then to check in on the online world he helped create, and I wonder if he’ll really be able to stay away.

Steve Waldman lists seven ways in which the Dish helped create what blogging is. Two of them:

How to use a link. No, he didn’t invent the “a href,” but he was one of the first to understand that “merely” pointing to something interesting written by someone else was a service to readers, not an admission of inadequacy. And he was among the first to follow (or create) proper “netiquette” of giving attribution. It was on Sullivan’s blog that I first saw the annotation “h/t.”

The readers as experts. In the early days of the internet, there was deep suspicion and confusion about how to incorporate user input. Most media outlets decided to bring in readers through raucous commenting areas. Sullivan was one of the first to feature deep, detailed stories from his readers—stories that provided expertise either on a technical topic or a personal experience. He has viewed his readers as teachers, reporters, and collaborators. I learned as much from his “the view from your Obamacare” as most newspaper survey pieces. The “it’s so personal” thread provided textured accounts by women who’d had abortions.

Meanwhile, Alex Pareene calls bullshit on my blog exit. He points out that the “announcement comes nearly exactly ten years after the last time he announced that he was stepping away from blogging”:

Read On

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A reader writes:

I’m know you’re getting a thousand-and-a-half of these emails today, but some bizarre, sentimental impulse compels me to write my own goodbye. It’s hard to see you go, and it certainly came as a shock: standing at the urinal yesterday between classes, bored out of my head and reading the Daily Dish for a precious few seconds, I read the news, stumbled in surprise, and (truly) pissed myself. If only soapy water and paper towels could mend my broken heart!

Really, though, I’ve felt a bit bereft since. Your blog has come to seem like a friend. It’s weird to think about it in those terms, and probably a bit cultish, but it feels true.

Another reader:

I’ve read your blog for 12 years. I’m not sure if I’ve ever before felt such closeness with a complete and total stranger, which perhaps explains why your decision to quit is something then that almost feels like an important change happening in my personal life.

But honestly, I can’t believe you’ve done it this long. I’m exhausted just trying to keep up.

And don’t let anyone tell you that you owe anything to “us.” You don’t. You’ve already given so much to strangers, in this most public airing of all the constitutes the life of your mind, with all of its beauty, sadness, love, hope, loss, brilliance, and yes, even maddening myopia. That is something truly, inexpressibly human, and therefore worthy of all my respect and thanks.

Another wonders:

Was yesterday’s VFYW a South Park reference?

beaverton

I am really going to miss the Dish.

Another:

I hate to add my snowflake to the avalanche that you’re surely receiving from readers, but I just can’t help myself. Over the past five-ish years, the Dish has become my go-to source for just about everything. Not just “news,” but cultural relevance. It’s been invaluable as such. It’s helped me to be a more knowledgable, thoughtful, and well-rounded person, and I’m insanely grateful.

From my heart, I understand – even applaud – the decision that’s been made, and I will miss you. It didn’t fully hit me until yesterday evening when no posts came to fill the strange vacuum following your fateful 1pm missive. Refreshing did nothing! Nothing? Nothing.

Another:

I have literally no idea how I am to get my news now. I went through the whole internet trying to add things to my Feedly, and I find myself skipping everything and forlornly looking back at my empty Daily Dish …

Another:

No words. None. I’ve been struggling with this since I read your post yesterday. Then re-read it. Then read it again, just to try and absorb it.

I’ve been reading you since the early days of the Iraq War, Abu-Ghraiband through all the madness since. You helped me clarify my own thinking on so many things in so many ways. Even when I didn’t agree, the Dish was thoughtful and welcome.

I will miss you all so much. I will miss Dishness. You were the best thing about my mornings, no matter how crappy the world was.

Another:

I think it was sometime in 2005 when I first heard your voice on a podcast of “Real Time with Bill Maher”, and I must admit that you mystified me a bit. So much about you felt very contradictory, I thought, who IS this guy?? But the more I’ve listened, and the more I’ve read, the more I’ve learned about the “liberalism” I apparently stand for, how to look at it more critically and fully, and how to more effectively parse the gray area that exists amid the extremes. That’s really hard to do these days. Thank you for teaching me how to think for myself.

Another:

If anything has kept me reading you, while I’ve long left behind the others (I used to read Mark Steyn compulsively), it’s your unpredictability, your breadth of curiosity, and your willingness to change your mind. First, of course, you were the gay conservative Catholic, a combination that sounds incoherent until you see it embodied in a real, thinking human being, as you were in your blog. Of course I didn’t agree with everything you said (though I ended up agreeing with an awful lot of it), but the honesty and passion (sometimes obsession) with which you would continue to make your case many times won my over, if only slowly.

Sometime in 2006, I think, it seemed that I was reading five posts a day about the federal andrew-sullivan-i-was-wrong-covermarriage amendment, and up to that point gay marriage was not an issue of interest for me, and if anything I leaned to mild opposition. But I kept reading, because I now had this connection to you and the blog, and your arguments, your reasoned arguments persuaded me (it would be the same story on the recognition of the disaster of the invasion of Iraq, or of the growing power of the maximalist settler movement in Israel, and others).

That brings me to the last, and for me most important, quality of your writing and thinking: your commitment to free debate, free speech, and free thought, in the fullest sense. It’s this liberal attitude that I fell in love with in college while studying philosophy, and which I respect so much in you. I now teach university in the US, and am dismayed at the trends I see and feel. It’s not so much that I have to be careful about what ideas I bring up, how my words might be misconstrued, or that a passing joke might be felt to cause offense to someone. It’s more what I see in my students, who have already learned these lessons so well that many of them seem unwilling to debate any remotely controversial idea in the classroom. When so few people seem to be willing to live out freedom of speech when it counts, you are a guiding example of its value.

Another:

Who the else is going to curate the Internet for me, keeping me abreast of current events while also keeping a keen eye out for psychedelics, Marilynne Robinson, animal cruelty and corporate media whoredom? Seriously. This is fucking impossible.

What a strange relationship. I’ve read a number of authors deeply. But the nature of the Dish is so personal, it feels like something different. In an amazing way, I have trusted you, and I’ve trusted you in a way that I have never trusted someone who is not actually a personal friend. I have allowed you to change me. I don’t think the same way I used to, I don’t occupy the same philosophical ground that I did pre-Dish.

I think the reason I allowed you to change me is that you yourself changed. You were publicly vulnerable in a way that few people are. The courage it took to do that has helped me over the years to muster the courage to truly examine my own beliefs, thoughts and opinions.

Another:

So long, and thanks for all the Dish.

Another:

I cannot actually remember the first time I read the blog, but it was awhile ago. I do remember telling my mother that she needed to read it … and read it she did. She and I would talk daily about the things you discussed – it was a connection we shared for many years. When something would happen in the world, we would often remark “I wonder what Andrew will have to say about this” or she would often tell me “Can you believe Andrew said that!!??” She was a big fan of yours, as am I.

When she died suddenly at the age of 71 a little over a year ago, I was devastated. But I kept reading The Dish, kept wondering what my mom would make of your take on the world she left too soon. Even now, I often remark aloud “Mom, I wish you were here to read this” or “Mom, Andrew’s lost his mind again.” It kept that connection, and I will forever be grateful.

Another:

I have little doubt that many of the emails you’ve received over the past 24 hours, like so many pregnantof the Andrew Sullivan encomia sprouting up in the political blogosphere, contain some version of the phrase, “despite your weird obsession with Trig Palin …” I’d like to take this opportunity to assure you that many of us consider your relentless focus on Palin and her nonsensical story of Trig’s birth as one of your finest hours as a blogger. It’s now glibly considered illegitimate and conspiratorial to look back on this episode for even a single moment, but you were correct to point out that Palin’s own version of this sequence of events is impossible to believe.

Now, I think it’s much more likely that Palin simply lied in her book and her public statements to dramatize the story of Trig’s delivery than that the pregnancy was some kind of hoax, but such brazen, public lying from a VP candidate is an entirely legitimate story. The mainstream press and most political blogs were and still are too cowardly to acknowledge this. You weren’t.

Another:

The only accurate way to state this is the simplest: You were the best practitioner of this “new thing” that has come along so far. And second place wasn’t particularly close.

You had an instinct for what political/cultural blogging could be; you were unrelentingly respectful of the diversity of thought and opinion that gravitated to you; you were unfailingly honest in admitting your mistakes in judgment (more so than virtually anyone in the business, Andrew); and you never stooped to insulting the intelligence of either your follower/subscribers or your adversaries. You never took the low road – even when you occasionally flipped out over something, and even when you were compelled by circumstances to comment on a certain former half-term governor (which took some doing).

The quality of the content – every single freaking day – was always first rate, whether I disagreed with you, or came out of my chair pumping my fist in the air. The best, most intellectually satisfying, challenging, and enlightening blog on the web.

Another:

Read On