Washington Post national correspondent Philip Bump is either the most arrogant journalist in corporate media or the most clueless. It’s possible he’s both.
In yet another one of his tireless tirades against Fox News, Bump dismisses former New York Times Alex Berenson’s “robust track record of misinformation” for contributing “to his being relegated to self-publishing his opinions at Substack.” Bump’s implication of course is that his opinions are of higher quality and should carry more weight because they are published by a publication that owes its continued existence to the benevolence of Jeff Bezos, one of the richest people in the world. Bump is outraged that Fox’s Tucker Carlson allowed Berenson to appear on his show.
I don’t want to get into a debate about the quality or accuracy of Berenson’s reporting, except to say that Bump links to a takedown The Atlantic did on the guy noting what appears to be a litany of mistaken predictions. This is the same Atlantic that last July blamed the unvaccinated for the pandemic’s continuation and then in December declared “The Pandemic of the Vaccinated is Here.” For the record, I was a very public critic of Berenson when he worked at the Times, but unfortunately my blog posts questioning his reporting methods are no longer available because they appeared on my corporate website, which I took down after I closed the business.
It’s Bump’s swipe at journalists who publish on Substack that can’t go unchallenged. Substack is increasingly home to some of America’s best and most integrous journalists who didn’t want to compromise themselves working in an increasingly discredited corporate media promoting politically correct and often false narratives. Ben Smith, the former New York Times media columnist, acknowledged that Substack was a potential threat to corporate journalism in a column last April entitled, “Why We’re Freaking Out About Substack.”
The Substack model is to allow journalists to share in the revenues generated by the audiences they attract. It takes guts to leave a secure journalism gig to join Substack because one’s financial success is ultimately predicated on being able to generate an audience willing to pay for your insight and wisdom.
Allow me to introduce you to some of the journalists with the courage and talent to make a go of it on Substack.
Among the most well-known and respected is former Rolling Stone scribe Matt Taibbi, whose damning April 2010 profile of Goldman Sachs will likely forever remain one of the best and most remembered corporate takedowns of all time. Goldman is still haunted by this Taibbi line, which is as true today as it was more than a decade ago: “The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”
Taibbi increasingly has become an angry critic of corporate media bias and dishonesty. In a December 2019 column, he deftly outlined their false reporting on the so-called Steele Dossier, which was ultimately funded by Hillary Clinton’s election campaign and led to Special Counsel’s Robert Mueller’s investigation. Taibbi explained why Mueller’s investigation was a “clown show” and noted inaccuracies in the Washington Post’s reporting and other media. It took another two years before the Post acknowledged and corrected some of its errors.
Another prominent Substack journalist is Glenn Greenwald, whose reporting for The Guardian on the National Security Agency documents leaked by Edward Snowden helped garner the publication the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, along with the Washington Post. Greenwald went on to launch The Intercept along with other journalists but resigned in October 2020 because he claimed the publication wouldn’t publish a critical story about Joe Biden and his relationship to China and the Ukraine before the election. Taibbi published the inside story as to why Greenwald resigned.
Greenwald is no fan of Bump, having called publicly mocked the WaPo writer for dismissing as a “conspiracy theory” damning emails found on Hunter Biden’s abandoned laptop indicating the president’s son engaged in influence peddling in China and the Ukraine.
Bump has also come under considerable fire for other stories, including one calling out the “minoritarian third” of the Supreme Court nominated by former President Trump.
Another noteworthy Substack journalist is Bari Weiss, whose resignation letter from the New York Times ranks among the most insightful criticisms as to what’s happened to a once great newspaper. Weiss’ public profile and influence appears to have heightened since leaving the Times, even making guest appearances on “Real Time with Bill Maher,” for which she generated some well-deserved criticism for saying she was “Done with Covid.”
If the Washington Post wasn’t a ward of Bezos, its future might be uncertain. According to documents leaked to rival The Wall Street Journal, unique visitors to the Post’s website in October were down 28 percent to 66 million from a year ago. The Post’s digital subscriptions fell to 2.7 million in October from 3 million in January, despite aggressive discount promotions. Most alarmingly, only 14 percent of the Post’s subscribers are under 55 compared with 61 percent of the U.S. adult population. Admittedly, other publications and broadcast outlets serving as the communications arms of the Democratic Party are experiencing readership and viewership declines, but only Politico has seen a bigger drop than the Post.
To people of my generation, when we think of the Washington Post, Watergate and Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein immediately come to mind. But the Post’s numbers suggest that younger Americans view the Post as the media equivalent of their father’s Oldsmobile. Comedian Joe Rogan, despite a slew of bad corporate media press and calls for boycotts, reaches an average of 11 million viewers giving a platform to guests the corporate media wants silenced and discussing topics that gets one censored on social media.
The Post is trying to broaden its readership offering new content, including a “data visualization” feature authored by Bump called “How To Read This Chart.” Post readers would better be served if Bump took a course entitled, “How To Read The Writing On The Wall.”
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