A year ago today, I was on a plane from Los Angeles to Miami writing my first Substack column. A few months before, I had resigned from the New York Times with no plan. (Tip: If you are going to resign from your job in a viral fashion, probably best to set up your Substack beforehand.)
I had no idea what to expect or if anyone would keep reading me. Here I was, leaving the biggest perch I’d ever had in my career, heading off into the wilderness of something called . . . a newsletter.
What happened next exceeded my wildest expectations. And none of it could have happened without your support.
Today I want to step back and give you a sense of what we’ve started building here and the enormous impact it’s had on the culture. I want to announce what year two has in store. And I want to share how we’re going to offer more to the paying subscribers whose commitment to our work has allowed it to flourish.
Let me start with the heart of what Common Sense does: groundbreaking reporting.
We have published over 120 pieces, which have reached many millions of readers in all 50 states and over 30 countries. Our work has been covered by the New York Times, the Daily Mail, the Daily Beast, the Week, the New York Post, Fox, CNN, Politico, Buzzfeed and Bloomberg. And even the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
But more than any metric, we are proudest of the impact our work has had.
We’ve shifted the national conversation on a number of key issues. We’ve published whistleblowers who toppled establishment narratives. And we’ve shed light on things that people in power would rather have kept in the shadows.
Take this story, “Top Trans Doctors Blow the Whistle on ‘Sloppy’ Care,” by Abigail Shrier—a story that cracked open the debate about how the medical establishment is treating transgender youth, featuring two top (transgender) doctors questioning their colleagues. The story was picked up by dozens of outlets, including Medscape, the most important medical blog in the country, and The Economist, which cited our reporting when the magazine wrote: “Opinion on the use of puberty blockers in America is turning.”
We broke open the story about ideological takeover in our schools back in May 2021—and just didn’t stop. It began with our piece on the miseducation of America’s elite, on how the country’s best schools are falling for fringe intellectual movements and purging any one who dares to dissent. This story led to incisive, courageous essays by the professors, teachers and parents with skin in the game: Paul Rossi. Maud Maron. Andrew Guttman. Jodi Shaw. Dorian Abbot. Gordon Klein. And more. Most recently, the former head of St. John's College announced the founding of a new university in Austin, Texas, which made news around the world.
We did the same in the realm of medicine. We commissioned the writer and reporter Katie Herzog to report a series on the rot inside top American schools and hospitals. She reported on what happens when doctors can’t tell the truth; a shocking Yale Grand Rounds lecture called “The Psychopathic Problem of the White Mind,”; and how medical schools are now denying biological sex.
Every single one of these stories—as with so many more—was picked up by mainstream outlets. (In a few cases, our reporting was followed weeks or months later by the Times.)
Our contributing writers list would make any editor in America jealous. We’ve published Jordan Peterson, Batya Ungar-Sargon, Peter Savodnik, Lara Bazleon, Chloe Valdary, Rob Henderson, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, David Sacks, Sergiu Kleinerman, Douglas Murray, Niall Ferguson, Balaji Srinivasan, David French, Enes Kanter Freedom, Melissa Chen, Leandra Medine, John Cochrane and more.
Often, we revisited stories that the mainstream just got dead wrong. We did that most powerfully on our podcast, Honestly, with episodes about Jussie Smollett, Kyle Rittenhouse, and of course Amy Cooper. The woman who became known to the world as the “Central Park Karen” was perhaps the biggest villain of 2020. The only problem? No one called Cooper up to ask for her side of the story. We did. NBC, Business Insider, The Hill, the New York Post, The Independent, and many, many, others followed our explosive episode with Kmele Foster.
I don’t think there’s another podcast in America that has hosted Kim Kardashian and Liz Cheney in the span of a few weeks. We’re proud to make the one that does.
In 2022, you can expect all this and more.
We’re going to keep building out our reporting team. Our focus will remain on publishing stories that bring order to the chaos, make sense of the seemingly nonsensical, and bring reason to an age of emotion. But our ambition will expand. We are keen to report on the crime wave and the future of American cities; about the crisis of faith and the potential religious revival; about the rise of populism, the political realignment, the new moderates and the new radicals. Most importantly, we plan to report on the most important stories of the day that the legacy media cannot tell—either because they fear alienating their readers or, more likely, their own employees.
But the main promise we want to make this year involves you, our Common Sense community.
There are more than 135,000 of you that receive this newsletter. You are a diverse group. You are doctors and lawyers and educators and filmmakers. Mathematicians, architects, engineers, and construction workers. Social workers, warehouse workers, police, farmers and ranchers. Students and homemakers. You are disillusioned liberals, progressives who care about the working class, libertarians, center-right conservatives, and populists. Many of you reject the outdated political spectrum altogether.
But we’re all here because we share some important things in common: a commitment to reason, curiosity, independence, decency, and a hunger for honest conversation. In our upside-down world, holding fast to these ideals can sometimes feel lonely.
More than ever, we crave the company of people who share our core values. And so that’s exactly what we want to build this year.
We can’t build this community without you. Here is some of what you can expect if you are—or decide to become—a paying subscriber:
Subscriber-only salons, book talks, and debates.
We’re kicking it off this Wednesday evening at 5pm PST / 8pm EST with an event about all things Covid. When will this end? Why is your 2-year-old being forced to wear a mask in preschool? And what should we do about all of it? Bring your frustration, confusion and questions to Dr. Vinay Prasad, Dr. Stefan Baral and Dr. Lucy McBride, who have been islands of sanity in a sea of misinformation. (Paying subscribers will receive the event link on Wednesday morning.)
Live Q&As with me and other Common Sense writers and contributors.
This starts on January 18, behind the scenes of The View, where I will be guest hosting for two days. More details to come.
Regular discussion threads.
We tried our first one last week and we were absolutely blown away by the response. More than 1,000 of you contributed to our first discussion thread and we want to do more of these soon.
This is only the start. We are also hoping to begin having virtual and real life—Yes, real life! We are sick of Zoom!—events in your city with me, other Common Sense writers and community members. We’re also thinking about writing contests, film screenings, and more.
So if you are seeking community, if you are looking for like-minded individuals, sparring partners, or just some new friends: Now is the time to subscribe.
Last: I want to just thank you.
Your support has allowed me to build a small team of reporters, editors and producers. This year, with luck, that team will grow. But the goal will remain the same as it did one year ago today: A publication for people who want to understand the world as it is, not the world as some wish it to be; who seek the truth rather than the comfort of a team or a tribe; and who are eager to chart a path forward.
I’m so proud of what we’ve done. We’re just getting started.