Substack, a publishing platform that incorporates payments, analytics, and subscription newsletters, is becoming more and more popular among independent journalists and writers.
One of them is Glenn Greenwald of the Snowden revelations fame, who several months ago decided to leave the website he co-founded, the Intercept, when it didn’t want to take any critical approach to Biden.
Now, he is seeing mainstream corporate journalists abandoning their role of free speech proponents to start coming for their colleagues who have chosen the independent route on platforms like Substack. They are doing this by ramping up pressure on the company to engage in censorship.
In Greenwald’s opinion, their main motive is to eliminate competition and survive in a market and among news consumers that no longer trust them, and are instead turning to alternative forms of publishing and journalism for information.
Specifically, corporate journalists are trying to suppress any criticism of their work as harassment and abuse, knowing that such accusations might easily not only discredit any justified criticism, but perhaps even literally outlaw it.
In such climate, a platform like Substack has been in danger for a while now, with clear signals that it might become the next target of censorship coming out of Columbia Journalism Review piece late last year, that examined “structural fairness” of Substack because it said those who are doing the best were mostly white and male, and the case made there was that these “privileged” classes of writers already have plenty of media platforms to express themselves on.
But Greenwald argues the opposite: not only are himself and others singled out in the article – Matt Taibbi, Andrew Sullivan, Matt Yglesias – in fact deprived of access to what’s termed as “existing media power structures,” but currently the most successful, monetization and reader number-wise writer on Substack is a woman, Heather Cox Richardson.
But the real problem seems to be that Substack is geared towards those who are not aligned with the establishment, both writers themselves and their growing audiences, who are at the same time increasingly rejecting the mainstream media.
Substack itself in the past addressed the issue of censorship, saying the company “believes that hosting a broad range of views is good for democracy (…) We believe in the free press and in free speech – and we do not believe those things can be decoupled.”