Last December, a dozen of us crammed into a conference room at a Los Angeles hotel where, huddled around a few laptops, we launched The Free Press.
We had just returned from Twitter HQ, where we were given access to the social media company’s vast archive of internal communications.
In the weeks that followed, we broke stories—about the platform’s Trump ban, its secret blacklists, and its powerful interference in the Covid debate. The Twitter Files revealed how a handful of unelected individuals put their thumb on the scale to manipulate the public discourse. And our findings gave rise to a vital conversation about censorship and government collusion with social media companies, leading to hearings before the House of Representatives.
That story marked an auspicious start for our incredible first year.
We have published hundreds of stories and podcasts. We have reached tens of millions of people. We’ve covered subjects ranging from anorexic “thinfluencers” to parents rejecting smartphones. From Iranian influence operations to the global surrogacy market. From crypto to autism to wars and protests. We’ve interviewed Sam Altman, Peter Thiel, and Ken Burns and debated AI, Ozempic, and immigration.
But if there is one word that typifies our work in 2023, it is impact. We are a small team, but we manage to pack an enormous punch.
A few examples stand out.
In February, we published the story of Jamie Reed, who exposed the “morally and medically appalling” treatment of transgender youths at The Washington University Transgender Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital where she worked. Her account set off a national conversation and sparked an investigation of the clinic by the Missouri Attorney General.
We became the home for whistleblowers like Reed and those who wanted to expose the ideological takeover of their respective fields. Climate scientist Patrick Brown came to us to reveal how prestigious scientific journals are stifling research, distorting climate science, and misleading the public. Former debate champion James Fishback exposed how high school debate has been hollowed out since ideological judges accept only a narrow set of arguments. Kendrick Morales revealed that enforcing high standards for good grades cost him his job at Spelman College. Professor Dorian Abbot explained how his prestigious MIT lecture was canceled because of his view that academics should be hired based solely on merit. Marc Rowan announced in our pages he was closing his checkbook to Penn over their ambivalence to antisemitism on campus, and other donors followed suit.
This year, we also launched our first audio documentary, The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling, in which the Harry Potter author discussed, for the first time, why she had taken a public stance on one of the most divisive issues of our time. Apple recently listed the podcast, hosted by Megan Phelps-Roper, as one of the top 10 most shared of the year. It has been downloaded nearly 12 million times.
There were a lot of firsts this year.
We were the first to get an interview with country phenom Oliver Anthony. We were the first to tell the story of a modern-day religious revival in Kentucky. We were the first to reveal how a pair of multimillionaire Marxists are fueling pro-Hamas rage in America. And the first to profile the inheritor of one of America’s biggest family fortunes, Fergie Chambers, a radical revolutionary using his vast wealth to seed communist revolution.
We also hosted our first live event. In September, we sold out a 1,600-seat theater in Los Angeles for our live debate, where four women duked it out over the legacy of the sexual revolution. Expect more debates in the coming year.
And when Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, we tripled our output to bring you important news and analysis, while also revealing how antisemitism has crept into our once treasured liberal American institutions. That coverage, The Wall Street Journal noted last month, has led to 40,000 new subscribers, with downloads of our Honestly podcast doubling to 1.7 million. (One project in particular, Voices from Gaza, has cut through the noise. It’s garnered 6.7 million views on Twitter and Instagram combined and has been featured on MSNBC, Fox, CNN, and NPR as well as Hebrew and Arabic news networks in the region.)
But really, this message is about you, our readers.
For the last twelve months, you have fueled our work. You cackled at Nellie Bowles’ TGIF on Fridays. You delighted over poetry on Sunday mornings with Douglas Murray. You watched as our reporters testified in front of Congress. You applauded some of our stories and strongly disagreed with others. Most importantly, you made a commitment to supporting independent journalism and fostering a better, healthier media landscape.
So, as The Free Press turns one, we wanted to thank you for your support. We could not have done this without you. And we are so excited for what 2024 has in store.
The FP Team