News important to gay readers came this week. Andrew Sullivan and his blog The Daily Dish have left The Beast and have struck out on their own. Henceforth, without what Sullivan calls a “sugar daddy” to pay the bills and without advertisements, Sullivan will host his own blog, supporting himself with contributions from his readers, who will be asked to pay $19.99 for a year’s worth of access to content. Out of the money he collects from his subscribers, he is going to pay his own salary, the salaries of five staff members, and other expenses of publishing his blog. The reason this is important to gay people is that Sullivan is cutting out all the gatekeepers—all the big publishers and papers—and showing a gay person how to gain direct access to readers. This would be incredibly liberating, if it works.
Sullivan’s plan raises a question—Would it be good for journalism and for the rest of us as readers? Would the end product be better than the product produced by a reporter working under the umbrella of the whole NY Times editorial structure? Would we end up with better material to read? For gay people, more different kinds of writing would be available to readers, and gay readers would have access to a broader range of writing.
There are writers all across the English-speaking world who are following Sullivan’s adventure—newspaper reporters, because they wonder if this is going to be one more nail in the coffin of print journalism, and bloggers and writers because, if Sullivan can do it, maybe they can do it.
I used to read Andrew Sullivan, beginning ten or twelve years ago. I was impressed that he had been editor of The New Republic, he wrote well, and he was gay. But I quit reading him during the first Bush administration because he was too conservative. See the screed by Mark Ames in the Daily Banter. His interest in racial intelligence, among other things, seemed way out of the American mainstream.
Now he’s moved left and offers us a plan that may prove that the internet can be a source of freedom for many of us. It may be possible for us to free ourselves of The New York Times and Time and Newsweek and Random House and Vanguard and Penguin and all the rest of the big gatekeepers. Gay people have been shut out for much of the twentieth century by the big gatekeepers, who say, even now, that the market for gay books has “vanished,” or “collapsed,” and who publish only those books that will fit their business plan for their corporations. But what has vanished is the ability of gay readers to find serious gay fiction. It may be that, if more intelligent gay books are offered to the public, the gay reader will return to booksellers, this time on the web.
It may actually be possible to make this work for us.