Writing is often considered an individualistic enterprise, but journalism is a collective endeavor. And that is the paradox of Substack: it’s a way out of a newsroom—and the racism or harassment or vulture-venture capitalism one encountered there—but it’s all the way out, on one’s own. “Holy shit, I work anywhere from fifty to sixty hours a week,” Atkin, of Heated, told me. “It’s a lot.” Harvin, the Beauty IRL writer, said she missed the infrastructure—legal and editorial—of a traditional outlet. “I just know how valuable it is to have a second ear to bounce ideas off of, someone to challenge you,” she said. “I’m very not big into writing in a vacuum, and I think that is the thing I miss the most.” Kelsey McKinney, a journalist whose literary Substack, Written Out, has accounted for about a third of her income during the pandemic, doesn’t do any reporting for her newsletter because of the lack of legal and editorial backing. Investigative journalism seems particularly difficult as a solo enterprise on Substack, which doesn’t reward slowly developed, uncertain projects that come out sporadically.
Chang closes with a reflection on some of these limitations and why it still is not necessarily the answer.
This piece me thinking about the Substack newsletters I am subscribed to:
- Little Futures
- Mike Monteiro’s Good News
- The Art of Noticing
- The World is Yours
- Amazon Chronicles
- People First
I still wonder about Chris Aldrich’s point about ‘yet-another-platform’.