Hello, I Must Be Going

Allow me to, ahem, *button things up* before I take this newsletter to Buttondown.email.

Dear Subscribers,

After a lot of hemming and hawing, I’ve come to a decision: I’m leaving Substack and taking this newsletter to Buttondown.email. I was able to import my subscriber list, so if you’re already subscribed here, you don’t need to do anything. You’ll receive my next installment from there.

If you’re not yet subscribed, find me over there at Adventuresinjournalism.com

I was also able to import my archives, so you can read the whole backlog there, too.

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I wish I didn’t feel the need to do this, but I don’t like the business direction Substack has been moving in, and the ways in which the guys at the top keep obfuscating to try to minimize their accountability.

These points listed in the final post from The Objective—another newsletter leaving Substack—succinctly capture some of the reasons I’m leaving:

•Substack’s CEO, Chris Best, tweeting “defund the thought police,” a reference that both trivializes Black-led movements for community safety and parrots racist provocateur Candace Owens.

•Using the paid “Pro” program to recruit writers that have made blatantly transphobic statements in the past and present. See Glenn Greenwald’s bizarre rant that tries to arbitrate trans existence or Graham Linehan, who has been warned about harassment and banned from Twitter for repeated rule violations. Put differently: Substack has actively chosen the kind of writing they want to platform. They are not neutral, but aim to tip the scale.

•All three of Substack’s co-founders insisting that none of its writers in the “Pro” program “can be reasonably construed as anti-trans.”

Trivializing and not substantively engaging with the critique they received over the last few weeks. 

•On Thursday, the company further retreated from its content moderation guidelines, narrowing its approach to hate and harassment. 

I’ve thought a lot about it and have come around to believing that what Substack is doing is at least somewhat more egregious than what traditional publishing and media companies do, because structural oppression was baked into those old systems a long time ago, and there are at least the beginnings of efforts in many places to dismantle that oppression. Don’t get me wrong—these efforts mostly leave much to be desired. They are weak, but the direction they’re moving in is the opposite of the direction Substack is now moving in.

Also, with traditional outlets, there is at least the acknowledgement of their editorial stances, something Substack keeps denying—probably because their stance is not terribly admirable. And within even the most offending publishing houses, an author can at least choose to publish with an imprint that better aligns with their values, because the values are more clearly laid out.

Substack is relatively new. It presented itself as an alternative to business as usual, but has now revealed itself to be replicating some of the worst aspects of those old systems, in the most irresponsible ways.

Until all of this came to light, I really enjoyed hosting my newsletter on Substack. There’s been a lot to like here, and I’m going to miss how easy it’s been to use. But the balance has shifted, and now there’s more that I don’t like than I do.

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Given that subscriptions for this newsletter have been free, Substack will not miss me one bit. But I hope enough paid-subscription newsletters leave on principle to make Substack rethink its choices. And I hope that eventually they’ll be persuaded to make some meaningful changes. Who knows? Maybe I can feel good about returning here some day.

Until then, see you at Adventuresinjournalsim.com

Thanks for reading.


Might as well plug some stuff while I’m here one last time:

The reissue of Goodbye to All That lands Tuesday, April 6th. Please consider pre-ordering from your favorite bookseller. (Preorders help a lot!) This edition features seven new essays, by Leslie Jamison, Emily Raboteau, Lisa Ko, Ada Limón, Danielle A. Jackson, Carolita Johnson, and Rosie Schaap.

I’ve got two online events coming up for it. On Friday, April 9th, Isaac Fitzgerald will host an event with Books are Magic, featuring Leslie Jamison, Emily Raboteau, Lisa Ko, Rosie Schaap, and me. Sign up here.

And on Tuesday, April 13th, Ryan Chapman will host an event with Rough Draft Bar & Books, featuring Ada Limón, Danielle A. Jackson, Carolita Johnson, and me. Sign up here.

I hope you’ll join me for one or both!