There is a big gap in the ideas trade between venues to explore new ideas and opinion outlets. News takes a couple of forms in the ideas industry—the bland commercial media menu, which has a preference for the ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ story, and, the academic journal, which most folks probably don’t think of as a news outlet, but it is to the extent it exists to get new ideas into the scholarly debate. Both strongly discourage opinions—or even interpretations—of those ideas.
The opinion industry is much more fraught and is declining. I say declining not because opinion media are increasingly hostile, fragile and partisan—I don’t actually think they are—but rather ubiquitously corporate. From op-ed pages to cable news, a decade ago it was common for experts to be given a voice. That air space is now filled with paid contributors and syndicated columnists. Those with narrow expertise, which in a self-aware world would be all experts, are crowded out by generalists trading (loudly) in anecdata and access journalism. It leaves quite a void. But even that space never fully welcomed new ideas to accompany strong opinions. What was sought were strong opinions about old ideas. And that remains true.
Where then do you go with both new ideas and an opinion about those ideas? I chose Substack which I see as a terrific medium to fill that gap. The goal of this newsletter is to explore new thinking around social problems. Much of that thinking is not news of the ‘here is what just happened’ variety, but rather news of the ‘you have probably never heard of this great idea’ variety. And, here’s what could happen if that idea was implemented.
My take is that because there are few mediums for strong opinions and new ideas, both bits suffer a little. Like founders in a start-up who are eventually pushed out by their venture capital masters, so too are idea-generators pushed out eventually by more saavy public relations people, who are also disconnected from the founding idea. And, as the saying goes, if you want to create to the perfect burger, one that appeals to the most people while offending the least, you get a Big Mac. A Big Mac is not a great idea.
I hope you will find this newsletter interesting.
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