A Note To Our Readers, Ctd

One of countless readers asks:

OK, no more begging for site to continue, EXCEPT can you please leave the site up for those of us who want to go back to read past weekend posts? These don’t have an expiration date. My weekends are so busy that I often don’t get a chance to explore all the excellent reads. I could probably spend a year going back and reading so much of what I missed. Also, how will we know where to go next if you don’t leave the site up for us to explore the “Blog Love” list? And some of the “Threads” have great significance (suicide, abortion – these have touched lives in so many ways). I insist you leave the site up for at least a year. Please, please, please, tell us you will.

Yes, we absolutely will. We’re determined to keep the site up in perpetuity for research and just memories. It’s like one huge encyclopedia of early 21st Century videos, arguments, quotes, poems, essays and so on. It will cost a little, but we will do what’s needed. The same with refunds. We’ll be in touch by email, but you can also contact us at support@andrewsullivan.com. In one last gesture of generosity, a few of you even offered to throw some money in a final tip-jar. So we set one up here, with the help of Tinypass. Drop us an email if you do; we are determined to reply to every one in due course. We’re floored and grateful.

One last thing: If you’d like to find out what we end up doing in the future, just sign up for our mailing list here.

A Note To Our Readers, Ctd

In response to our Dish RIP post, a reader titles her email “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, Ctd”:

Ugh. I had a sliver of hope and now it’s gone.  I understand, but man, this sucks bad.  I knew there was a chance you’d go through with leaving, so I’ve been looking around at other places to look for this great balance between current events, news, opinion – and nothing.  The Atlantic maybe comes the closest (which by the way, I only heard about because of the Dish), but it’s not the same. Will definitely miss you guys. This is such a bummer.  Starting to hit me now.  Uggggh.

It’s going to be painful for us too. The withdrawal signs are already setting in. Another reader:

I’ve been reading you since the very beginning. I’ve emailed a couple of times, but really nothing worth publishing. I’m going to miss The Dish immeasurably; it’s my #1 blog!  And I suggest that there’s one more angle to the thread on suicide, i.e. Is Killing The Dish Selfish? (I ask this with tongue only partially embedded in cheek.)

Another reader on our “impending demise”:

Well, all I can say is I think you’re a bunch of pussies.

More like scrotums, as Dan would say. Another asks regarding this quick post, “The real mother of Trig is Rick Astley?” Another fell for it too:

Goddammit Sullivan. I was just about to write a nice email to wish you all the best and thank you for everything the blog has given me over the years. And then you Rickrolled me with this post. Fuck you and good riddance.

Or how another puts it:

........('(...´...´.... ¯~/'...') 
..........''...\.......... _.·´ 

Heh. Another:


(I love you I love you I love you please don’t go please don’t go!)

Another confesses, “What I hate the most is what it says about me that I clicked on that Trig click-bait.” Another:

I should have known I was about to be Rick rolled. Captain Ahab was not after gold. The poor mixing of metaphors should have been a clue. Well done though. I totally fell for it.

Another asks, “Is this end of blogging just a set up for the mother of all rick rolls?!?”  Maybe if it were closer to April 1. One more reader for now:

Rick-rolled in the end. You suck. But I have to admit, I danced, and cried a little too. Really. It’s starting to sink in that Friday is the end of it all. I feel like I’m losing a brother, my online family, my home page, and one-stop shopping for almost everything that mattered. I just spent an hour visiting almost every sight on your blog reference list for a possible replacement. Nothing compares to The Dish. Damn it.

Best wishes to you all. Y’all really have no idea how much you mattered and the difference you made in my life. Please do use the list of emails you have and keep us updated. I would love to know where everyone ends up, what everyone writes, and that you are all thriving. My days will never be the same, but I’m smarter now, and glad to have been along for the ride.

You and 30,256 subscribers carried us.

A Note To Our Readers, Ctd

It’s been a highly emotional and tough week for the Dish team, especially given the outpouring of love from the in-tray. We’re so grateful and not a little moved by your insistence that the Dish somehow go on, post-Sully.

But the truth is: we’ve been grappling with that question now for months, and this is not as sudden a decision as it may appear from the outside. Since last summer, we’ve been thinking through whether a transition to a Sully-free Dish could work, and what it would take to re-launch the Dish as simply an aggregation/curation news and opinion site, who would run it, who would write for it, etc. We’ve talked to potential investors; we’ve discussed how it would work editorially; we’ve gone through the numbers; we’ve assessed exactly how heavy a lift it might be. And we concluded it would be a very, very heavy lift. The tipping point was my health, which made a core decision for me (and us) last month, as our auto-renewals loomed. We’re all only human. At some point, the marathon has to end.

We revisited all of this again in the wake of your emails. You deserved that. But the simple truth is: all three co-owners of the site, me, Patrick Appel and Chris Bodenner, have come to the conclusion that the practical, financial and editorial challenges of continuing on are howler beaglesimply too great for us to bear as we are, let alone without me. We’re a tiny team, already stretched beyond any sane life/work balance, with no financial backer, and a work ethic that might be alternately described as manic or masochistic. I’m not the only one exhausted and drained after years and years of intense, always-on-deadline work – not just editorially, but also these past two years in running a small business. We’re a very tight ship as we are, with a drained crew. The seas ahead would be extremely rough, and the danger of sinking without a captain quite high. We’re incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved, which is why, in some ways, we’d rather end it while it’s still thriving than run the risk of seeing it all slowly fall apart. We owe that to the Dish itself, to ourselves and to you.

I know this is a brutal decision and I can tell you in all candor how deeply painful it has been for us. Each of us has given our all to this adventure; it has dominated our lives for years; it has been a source of enormous joy and satisfaction as well as profound strain and anxiety. We are as addicted to it as you are, and withdrawal will be really tough. But we’ve made the call that there is a time for everything, and that the Dish will and should live on as a pioneering fifteen-year experiment at the dawn of the new media age. We feel we’ve left behind a model of what an online community can truly be, what a site uncontaminated with p.r. can achieve, and how it’s possible for less than ten people to corral a million people a month and 30,000 paying subscribers into a conversation without end.

And yes, the conversation will continue – just not in this form and not in this place. The Dish, after all, is a very new media invention. It’s less an institution than an organism – a living breathing creature that is more than the sum of its parts. It’s you and me and life and the Dish team all living and thinking and writing together in real time through the twists and eddies of history. It’s not a physical object, or an institution. We’ve never had an office. And we’ve tended to it like a living organism, listening to its intimations, letting it take us where it wants us to go, always innovating but also retaining core elements that never change. Once you start dismantling bits of it, or removing parts of its DNA, or reconstituting it without me, you risk an unraveling. The Dish’s legacy deserves better.

As for you and us, we will stay in touch. We have 30,000 email addresses – and we’ll reach out to you as the team goes on to new projects and as I figure out my own future. I know that Friday, our last day of Dishing, will be deeply emotional. But better to end something cleanly and clearly than drag it out.

And for the next few days, let’s celebrate. Let’s remember the highs and lows, the insanity and the wisdom, the humor and the deadly seriousness of what the Dish has created and spawned these past several years. Let’s remember what we created together and be glad. For we have something wonderful to be glad about.

A Note To Our Readers

Just a request for your patience as we figure out the future. And to thank you personally for the overwhelming love and support in the in-tray these last few days. I didn’t have the courage to read the avalanche of emails until yesterday, and I was blown away by your support for my decision to quit blogging and your overwhelming desire to see the Dish continue, if it can. So stay tuned. We’re figuring this out.

Could The Dish Continue Without Me?


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!


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:


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.

A Blogger Breaks Free: Your Thoughts, Unfiltered

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.

How It Happened

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: