A Blogger Breaks Free: Blog Reax


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”:

blog archivesIn the month of February, 2005, following his announcement, Sullivan went on to publish 52 additional blog posts, totaling nearly 13,000 additional words. In March, 2005, he posted 47 posts, totaling 14,000 words. In April, he announced that he had “given up on [his] decisions to drastically reduce [his] blogging commitments.”Instead, he said, he’d stopped blogging in “the early hours,” though he was now getting up earlier and blogging “post-coffee in the morning.”

As you can see in the accompanying screenshot of Sullivan’s Dish archives, in the nine months following Sullivan’s 2005 announcement that he was stepping down from blogging, he updated The Dish 1,564 times.

Andrew Sullivan is not retiring from blogging.

Erik Kain wants the blog to live on:

I say, let The Dish go on, with or without Sullivan. So long as the driving ethos remains intact, there’s no reason to call it quits entirely.

Sullivan can take on an executive producer role, or simply let his name and fame remain attached to the project. Then he can bring in some of the more interesting names in online media to write in his stead—semi-permanent guest bloggers, if you will. There are so many talented writers out there, including many who disagreed vehemently with Sullivan, who he nevertheless linked to. The spotlight wasn’t only reserved for sycophants. This is an opportunity to go even further, to give a podium to many of the best thinkers and writers out there. It would be a terrible waste to call the whole thing off.

Conor Friedersdorf, a Dish alum, makes the case for continuing without me:

Perhaps The Dish could continue to render that service to rising writers and readers eager to discover them. With its eclectic history of guest-bloggers, one can imagine the site evolving into something like Saturday Night Live, with a guest host each week to put their stamp on the broadcast even as they work with a staff that keeps continuity and produces its own stars. It’s hard to overstate how much such opportunities mean to young people struggling to make it in a field where getting recognized for one’s voice and ideas isn’t guaranteed. As a writer, I won over many a longtime reader thanks to my time at The Dish. There are a dozen writers who I follow each week that I wouldn’t have discovered without it.

The community of Dish readers is another feature of the site that is worth conserving. They are a delightfully diverse group, possessed of a public-spirited willingness to share, via email, impressively informed, thoughtful perspectives on most any subject. Marijuana use as a successful adult, whether to spank children, the experience of having a late-term abortion–on those subjects and so many others, the Dish community has produced engaging collections of insight, debate, and personal narratives unlike any I’ve seen elsewhere. In attracting these correspondents and inspiring them to share their ideas across ideologies and identities, Sullivan mediated something that may well be impossible to recreate if it disappears.

Ann Althouse differs:

I’ve been going for 11 years — less than Sullivan’s 15 — but I know that blogging only works because the spirit is there. You have to thrive on the intrinsic energy of the writing itself. When the magic is gone, you can’t do it, if you really know what blogging is. If you bring other people in to do it for you, then it’s not your blog anymore. Maybe those other people — and Sullivan had brought in other people — can take off and become real bloggers in their own right, but if they’re keeping “your” blog going and your spirit of blogging is depleted, it’s over, and in the name of The Spirit of True Blogging, you should face that fact, stop, and move on into a life that does have intrinsic meaning for you.

Alyssa Rosenberg contemplates the current state of blogging:

The subject of burnout frequently comes up when people talk about changes in blogging. But for me – and I suspect for entrepreneurs like those building Vox – some of these shifts in pace and style are also a pace of the way people read. I expect a lot of you come in through social media, and maybe don’t read me regularly at all (though if you decide to stick around, I run a dandy chat every Monday).

Bloggers these days have to speak to our loyal readers, and there are many of you who have been kind enough to come with me from outlet to outlet. But when we become part of larger outlets, that means we can’t speak to you alone anymore. Sullivan had an enormous reach, but the Dish still felt like it was very much written for a specific group of readers who were a known quantity. That’s a quality I think might be passing from the scene, and the conversation will be different for it.

Chris Taylor likewise feels that “personal blogging for a mass audience has pretty much gone the way of the dodo”:

These days, if you have something to say and it won’t fit in a single tweet (or a tweetstorm), you have so many more compelling options than blogging. You can post on Facebook if it’s just for friends, or Tumblr if it’s image-based, or on Medium if you want a think piece shared more widely, or LinkedIn, or any one of a hundred other sites and services that are thirsty for content.

About the last thing you’d do is willingly maintain your own site, especially not in an age where your readers are as likely to be on phones or tablets as desktop browsers. Who still does that kind of one-man operation? It’s hard to bring successful examples to mind that aren’t speaking to a very niche audience — such as John Gruber’s Daring Fireball, an extremely minimalist site that looms large in the world of Apple fandom.

Dylan Byers, for one, declares blogging dead:

Sullivan was able to keep blogging alive (and lucrative) long after the era of blogs had come to an end — at The Atlantic, at The Daily Beast, and, in recent years, through the funding of readers. It’s also true that Sullivan’s influence has waned of late. While there is still some demand for Sullivan’s outspokenness — he’s at his best when he’s arguing, aggressively — there is far less demand for unspecialized aggregation. If you scroll down from Sullivan’s latest post, there’s a reader-submitted photograph, then a pull from a Slate article about flip-flopping, then a pull from a Time article about marijuana legalization. This is vintage Sullivan, but it flies in the face of all conventional wisdom about what makes media sites work: namely, specialization and original content.

Chris Cillizza counters:

The idea inherent in all of the death knells for blogging is that blogging is any one thing. It’s not. As I explain to anyone who will listen to me  an ever-shrinking populace  a “blog” is simply a publishing medium. It’s a way to put content on the Internet  usually a fast and, relatively, user-friendly way. But, the conflating a publishing medium with a sort of online writing  opinionated, snarky  that tends to be the preferred approach of many of its users is a mistake. …

For me, the idea of a blog — or blogging  that works is reported analysis told through a variety of textual and visual mediums. You could call them  as newspapers tend to do  “analysis” pieces and run them as articles. You could call them— as the graphics world does  data visualizations and run them as infographics. The bigger point is: It’s journalism, on the Web. It doesn’t matter what word you ascribe to it.

Adam Tinworth is on the same page:

The one thing that this isn’t is any sign of the “death of blogging”. You only have to glance a Tumblr and the growth in fashion blogging and the explosion of Medium and all the rest of it to see that, as Kevin Marks wrote in 2008, blogging is like air.

Or, to put it another way, blogging won. Everything from your Facebook newsfeed to a Pinterest board has something of the characteristics of the medium. Blogging is so deeply entwined with the web itself that we don’t even really need the word any more.

Ben Smith gets nostalgic for the good old days:

Andrew spent parts of the last few years raging against advertising and pressing ahead with a subscription model that could only work with the most devoted audience on the web — and perhaps not even then. I felt an old loyalty to him — as a reader who started hitting refresh compulsively right after 9/11, when I was reporting in Kiev and he was a lifeline to the American conversation — that prevented me from ever really getting worked up about his attacks on us. And indeed, I’ll still miss that feeling of seeing a stream of links to andrewsullivan.com pop up in my SiteMeter, and knowing that my polite, tentative email had won me coveted access to his loyal, thoughtful, old-school blog readers.

PM Carpenter is similarly thankful for the readers we sent him over the years:

I have heard from many of you that you found my site through The Dish, and I must say what’s unique about that is rarely do such major sites acknowledge the small ones. Sullivan and his staff never played the insider-bloggers’ “club” game; if they found a piece interesting or worthy of note, they noted it, and it made no difference that its author was not of national notoriety. That helped my overall readership a great deal, it was damned refreshing, wonderfully democratic, and just plain decent of them.

Jonathan Bernstein shares that sentiment:

I’ll miss his voice and, more importantly, his central contribution to the cooperative, rigorous, fascinating culture of blogging. As I said on Twitter yesterday, without Sullivan, political scientists would still only be heard from when they were willing to supply the exact quote that a reporter wanted to support a story. Sullivan’s support for political science bloggers was early, and it was decisive. On a personal level, I owe him more thanks than I can ever express for his support, beginning very early in my blogging career.

Dan Drezner wishes me well:

Andrew explains his desire to return to more introspective work, which I completely understand. Over the years, the pressure of instant commentary caused Sullivan to overreach on occasion in his blog posts – a fact that he acknowledged, which makes him unlike an awful lot of the bloggers who followed in his wake.

I do hope, however, that Andrew doesn’t leave his passion behind with the blog. Sullivan’s rhetorical style was perfectly suited for the blogosphere. Unlike 99.9 percent of the political writers on this planet, Sullivan wrote best when he wrote with passion. More than most, he was able to channel strong emotions into erudite real-time prose.

Hemant Mehta reflects on the debt he owes the Dish:

I’ve learned a ton from him over the years just by watching him go independent (and remain financially stable), shut off comments (while still giving readers a chance to contribute to the conversation), give voice to those who disagree with him, change his mind publicly on a variety of things, put his emotions into writing even if he may later regret it, and cultivate a staff that can seamlessly run the site even when he’s on a break.

None of that is easy to do, and he’s done it brilliantly. I know my own style has been influenced by his work more so than just about any blogger out there.

And James Poulos is looking forward to what comes next:

Andrew’s combative, omnivorous mind is built to blog, but his heart has long beaten with a melancholy that the internet seems built to crowd far out of view. Like any student of Oakeshott, he knows that even small stretches of repose can open onto big, hidden vistas. I look forward to reading Andrew, so to speak, by the fire and off the clock.

(Photo by Judit Klein)

A Blogger Breaks Free: Your Thoughts


We’re still processing your emails. I couldn’t look at the in-tray yesterday. But today, I ventured in and am still reeling from the range and depth and sincerity of so many of you. These are a first batch of immediate reactions (more to come). A reader writes:


Another reader:

Denial: Ha ha, very funny Andrew.  Early April Fools!  Got me there for a second.  Probably just another vacation or sick leave.  Yeah, gotta recharge those batteries, right.  The staff will step in.  Or some great guest bloggers.  They always do a great job.

Anger:  Wait, what?  Seriously?  Shit.  Fuck!  I mean … FUCK!

Bargaining:  But you’ll stay on as editor, right?  For the new Dish staff run group blog / new model internet magazine?  I’ll increase my subscription!  What do you need to make it work?  $50?  $100?  Seriously, you gotta stick around.  You can totally make it work as executive editor.  Even as just a figure head!  The staff is great!  You wouldn’t want them to lose their jobs, would you?  Take a break, however long you need – two weeks, a month, whatever – and get back to us.  Whatever you need buddy; we’re here for you.  We can get through it together.

Depression:  Well, that’s it then.  The Internet is dead to me.

Acceptance:  *sob* We love you, Andrew, and we don’t want your last blog post to be a long string of “jjjjjjjjjjjjjjj” after you die face down on the keyboard.  Be free!  We your readers release you, our wild bear kept too long captive for our own amusement.  Go!  Perhaps in some distant happy day we will spy you from a distance in your natural habitat, frolicking on the beaches of Cape Cod, or stalking the dark alleys of D.C.  Then we will know that it was the right thing to do – that we could only truly love you by letting you go.


I’ve heard of getting dumped by phone, by email, even by text … but getting dumped by blog?!?

Yes, it felt like a break-up. Another possible headline for that post would have been “It’s not you; it’s me.”

Another reader:

Oh, shit! Are you sure you’re not just being hysterical again?

It’s been a long time in the making. Another reader gets vivid:

I won’t pretend this hasn’t hit me like a bag of hammers to the essentials.


Holy crap Andrew, I need a drink.

We had many last night. Another reader:

But . . . but . . . but . . .

I just bought a fucking mug!!!

One of our longest-running and daily critics from the in-tray:

I am shocked and horrified!  Don’t do this … find a way …

Another remembers the last time I tried to stop:

Andrew quits blogging?  I hope the Pope’s doctors are on alert.


I’m sorry I took you for granted. It never crossed my mind when you would stop blogging. It’s just that you have always been there. Good days, bad days and everything in between. I’m really at a loss for words.


First Colbert and now the Dish? I am not sure what I’m going to do at work now.


I totally get this.  In fact, in the last few weeks, I haven’t been reading The Dish as ardently as before.  It wasn’t “you”.  I was feeling the stress of the 24-hour news cycle myself.


Betrayed. That’s what I feel. I know it’s not fair and I don’t really understand it, but that’s the best word I have right now.

Maybe it’s because I was a subscriber, or maybe it’s because I’ve read and shared your articles for so long. But it’s like a piece of the internet is being taken out and now the whole is somehow much less. I had hoped I was supporting a new way of doing business, a way to be free of all the ads. But I guess the ads will win after all.

Another also fears the ads:

I just want the record to show that I would happily maintain my current subscription indefinitely for a single article a month from you, or any variation on such a theme that helped you do what you love and not kill yourself in the process. The Dish is not about maximizing content for me, but about smart, honest, opinionated journalism uninfected by the corrosive virus of advertising.

And you already know this. But it is also about love. It is about your ability to be not just a journalist, writer and opinionated public figure, but your ability to be a person just behind the screen of the blog – flawed, struggling, self-questioning, and occasionally a little bit heroic – for whom I can’t be the first to have professed a kind of love.

Go do your best, and let us know where that will be. We’ll follow.

Another won’t:

I got to your final post as a mistake, but once there I did read your final tripe. Wow you wasted 15 years of your life on that? You will have trouble living in the real world, which is a far cry from the bubble you have lived in. Don’t respond back, as I have no interest.

A different view:

Chatham, N.H.-12pm

Chatham, New Hampshire, 12 pm

A first-timer:

We’ve never met and I’ve never written in. I’m the ultimate Dish lurker: I go on multiple times a day and love all the different insights from readers/guest bloggers/Andrew/the team in general, but never felt like I had the requisite expertise or a unique-enough perspective to write in and improve the conversation. But today I realized I’ve been with this community long enough (just two years, which is far from the decades under other readers’ belts) to send a simple but genuine message to the Dish inbox: thanks.

Thanks back. More from you soon. Stay tuned.

Correction Of The Day

A reader calls out Paul Farhi:

I’m sure you’ve got a flood of email coming in today. I just wanted to let you know that your readers are looking out for Dusty’s memory. See the attached email from WaPo media reporter Paul Farhi promising to correct his article that defamed her. I took a screenshot for the record:


No hard feelings, Paul. After all, I got my other dog wrong myself.

A Note To My Readers, Ctd

Just to let you know that, in the immortal words of Mary Queen of Scots (see above), we’re not dead yet; we’re just figuring out the timing of ending the Dish, and hope to have a last hurrah of pure Dishness in the coming days. First up are your emails in response, which we are curating and reading as I write. There was an avalanche of them, so bear with us as we try to sort through it. We’re also a little hung over today, and the Dish team are human beings as I am. They have gone through all this with me, and they need a little time to process. But stay tuned for more Dish. We want to go out with a bang.

A Note To My Readers


One of the things I’ve always tried to do at the Dish is to be up-front with readers. This sometimes means grotesque over-sharing; sometimes it means I write imprudent arguments I have to withdraw; sometimes it just means a monthly update on our revenues and subscriptions; and sometimes I stumble onto something actually interesting. But when you write every day for readers for years and years, as I’ve done, there’s not much left to hide. And that’s why, before our annual auto-renewals, I want to let you know I’ve decided to stop blogging in the near future.

Why? Two reasons. The first is one I hope anyone can understand: although it has been the most rewarding experience in my writing career, I’ve now been blogging daily for fifteen years straight (well kinda straight). That’s long enough to do any single job. In some ways, it’s as simple as that. There comes a time when you have to move on to new things, shake your world up, or recognize before you crash that burn-out does happen.

The second is that I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again. I’m a human being before I am a writer; and a writer before I am a blogger, and although it’s been a joy and a privilege to have helped pioneer a genuinely new form of writing, I yearn for other, older forms. I want to read again, slowly, carefully. I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged. I want to write long essays that can answer more deeply and subtly the many questions that the Dish years have presented to me. I want to write a book.

I want to spend some real time with my parents, while I still have them, with my husband, who is too often a ‘blog-widow’, my sister and brother, my niece and nephews, and rekindle the friendships that I have simply had to let wither because I’m always tied to the blog. And I want to stay healthy. I’ve had increasing health challenges these past few years. They’re not HIV-related; my doctor tells me they’re simply a result of fifteen years of daily, hourly, always-on-deadline stress. These past few weeks were particularly rough – and finally forced me to get real.

We’ll have more to say – and we’re sure you will as well – in due course. I particularly want to take some time to thank my indispensable, amazing colleagues in a subsequent post. For the time being, auto-renewals have been suspended and the pay-meter has been disabled. While we’re in this strange, animated suspension, I just wanted to take one post to thank you personally, the readers, founding members and subscribers to the Dish.

It’s been a strange relationship, hasn’t it? Some of you – the original white-on-navy ones – went through the 2000 election and recount with me, when I had to explain the word “blog” to anyone I met; we experienced 9/11 together in real time – and all the fraught months and years after; and then the Iraq War; and the gay marriage struggles of the last fifteen historic years. We endured the Bush re-election together and then championed – before almost anyone else – the Obama candidacy together. Remember that first night of those Iowa caucuses? Remember the titanic fight with the Clintons? And then the entire arc of the Obama presidency.

You were there when it was just me and a tip jar for six years, and at Time, and at The Atlantic, and the Daily Beast, and then as an independent company. When we asked you two years ago to catch us as we jumped into independence, you came through and then some. In just two years, you built a million dollar revenue company, with 30,000 subscribers, a million monthly readers, and revenue growth of 17 percent over the first year. You made us unique in this media world – and we were able to avoid the sirens of clickbait and sponsored content. We will never forget it.

You were there when I couldn’t believe Palin’s fantasies; and when we live-blogged the entire Green Revolution around the clock for nearly a month in 2009. You were there when I freaked out over Obama’s first debate against Romney; and you were with me as I came to realize just how deeply wrong I had been on Iraq. But we also fought for marriage equality together (and won!), and for a new post-Iraq foreign policy (getting there), and for legalizing weed (fuck you, Hickenlooper!). We faced the brutal reality of a Catholic church engaged in the rape of children, and the bleak truth about the United States and torture. And I think we made our contribution to all those struggles. The Dish made the case for Obama in a way that actually mattered when it mattered. I think we made the case for gay equality in a way no other publication did. And we lived through history with the raw intensity of this new medium, and through a media landscape of bewildering change.

I want to thank you, personally, for the honesty and wisdom of so many of your threads and conversations and intimacies, from late-term abortions and the cannabis closet to eggcorns and new poems, from the death of pets, and the meaning of bathroom walls to the views from your windows from all over the world. You became not just readers of the Dish, but active participants, writers, contributors. You trusted us with your own stories; you took no credit for them; and we slowly gathered and built a readership I wouldn’t trade for anyone’s.

You were there before I met my husband; you were there when I actually got married; and when I finally got my green card; and when Dusty – who still adorns the masthead – died. I can’t describe this relationship outside the rather crude term of “mass intimacy” but as I write this, believe me, my eyes are swimming with tears.

How do I say goodbye? How do I walk away from the best daily, hourly, readership a writer could ever have? It’s tough. In fact, it’s brutal. But I know you will understand. Because after all these years, I feel I have come to know you, even as you have come to see me, flaws and all. Some things are worth cherishing precisely because they are finite. Things cannot go on for ever. I learned this in my younger days: it isn’t how long you live that matters. What matters is what you do when you’re alive. And, man, is this place alive.

When I write again, it will be for you, I hope – just in a different form. I need to decompress and get healthy for a while; but I won’t disappear as a writer.

But this much I know: nothing will ever be like this again, which is why it has been so precious; and why it will always be a part of me, wherever I go; and why it is so hard to finish this sentence and publish this post.