paper trail

Clio Chang looks at Substack’s journalism model; Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reviews Barack Obama’s memoir

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Photo: © Wani Olatunde

In Columbia Journalism Review’s winter issue, Clio Chang profiles Substack, the newsletter platform that has “begun to look like it’s reverse engineering a media company.” The most successful writers on Substack like Matt Taibbi, Andrew Sullivan, and now Glenn Greenwald tend to be white, male, and already “well-served” by careers in existing media. “In general,” Chang asks, “will Substack replicate the patterns of marginalization found across the media industry, or will it help people locked out of the dominant media sphere to flourish? To a large extent, the answer depends on whether or not Substack’s founders believe they’re in the publishing business.”

The Fund for Investigative Journalism has partnered with the Ida B. Wells Society to designate three grants of up to $10,000 to members working on projects “related to the COVID-19 pandemic or police misconduct.”

At The Nation, Jennifer Wilson reviews Beth Blum’s new book, The Self-Help Compulsion, which traces self-help literature back to the collective DIY movements of British anarchists and socialists. Of course, as Wilson notes, the genre has changed quite a bit since then: “‘Fail better,’ which Blum suggests the socialist Beckett meant ironically, has been rebranded as the start-up culture’s go-to mantra.”

At the New York Times, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gives a rave review to Barack Obama’s memoir, A Promised Land, which was published today. The Times reports that booksellers are counting on the book to revive flagging sales. Crown has printed more than three million copies so far.

Manhattan’s Poets House, beloved literary center and public library home to tens of thousands of books, is suspending operations due to “challenges presented” by the pandemic. The center, founded in the 1980s by Stanley Kunitz and Elizabeth Kray, hopes to reopen by the end of next year.

Midstory talks with Martha Bayne, senior editor at Cleveland-based Belt Publishing, about pushing back on the homogenization of the publishing industry and challenging mainstream narratives about residents of the Midwest and the Rust Belt.