Earlier this summer, I grabbed lunch with Jon Kelly, the editor-in-chief of Puck, at a bistro in the West Village. I was there to catch up, and, I’m ashamed to say, to gloat a bit. I’ve been waiting since January 6th to tell you this, I said as we sat down. But: I told you so.
Kelly and I met back in 2015, when we were both still at Vanity Fair along with executive editor Ben Landy. From our very first meeting in the Conde Nast cafeteria, I’d been aggressively insistent that not only could Donald Trump become president, but that whatever primal forces he’d tapped into would be a serious and lasting threat to the stability of American democracy. He had been game enough to let me follow my instinct, but cautioned me to step back from my beat just a tad. The internet’s not the real world, he would repeat whenever I pointed out that Trump was winking some fringe group or QAnon conspiracy on his Twitter account.
Of course, by the time I left V.F. for Politico, it had become impossible to cover the president without understanding how internet message-board culture had infected the Republican media ecosystem, often with political consequences that were all too real. When we reunited for our lunch date, one pandemic and one attempted coup later, “lies on the internet” had attained an agenda-setting power of their own, competing with K Street and the Wall Street Journal editorial page for influence within Fox News and the White House.
As we discussed the possibility of my joining Puck, we both came to the conclusion that Washington needed to be covered in a new way—that you can’t appreciate what is really happening in Washington without a deeper understanding of the grassroots voters and internet activists who have taken the Republican Party hostage. It’s tempting to ignore the gatecrashers who populate this world. But the modern conservative movement, such as it is, is undeniable as a media-social-political enterprise. It moves markets, elects presidents, and drives the national conversation.
I joined Puck, in part, because I believe it takes a new kind of media company to do this vital work. I’m not in this for the traffic, or for hate clicks, or to fuel the moral outrage and witch hunts that pass for deep thinking on Twitter. I’m here to produce reporting that is smart, accurate, and supported by our readers. And I’m excited to be a part of a team that shares those same values.
I’ve been describing Puck as an experiment in rebuilding trust in the media, and I have a funny feeling it’ll work out. Puck is a subscription business, and we are only accountable to you. If you support that mission, you can join this community by signing up here.