There’s a worry that America is too polarised to buy into a magazine that has spent decades hosting a variety of competing views. When the right-leaning Spectator USA recently dared to publish a critical piece on Donald Trump, who has miraculously achieved martyrdom status among his followers, some of its readers decided to walk away, taking their monthly subscriptions with them.
Perhaps they thought the three-year-old publication – an offshoot of the 193-year-old Spectator – would only take the p**s (in the finest of British traditions) out of the Democrats and Joe Biden? Either way, the mini-protest caused pause for thought for editor Freddy Gray, who beat the outlet’s 10,000 subscriber target last year and now is going for 20,000 sign-ups by the end of 2021.
“It is a potential problem for The Spectator in America, trying to make people understand that we present opposing points of view and that we’re not just cheerleading [Trump],” Gray told FN. “That will hopefully get better as we get into the stride of the Biden administration.”
He’s also planning to tone down the snark of the publication, which launched in print in October 2019 and styles itself as more of a “cocktail party” rather than a hard-nosed journalist venture like The New York Times or The Washington Post.
“The problem now is that everything is getting so catastrophic the worry will be that people are getting a little bit fed up with snark because it’s so apocalyptically bad,” Gray said. “If you can move to be genuinely funny, rather than just snark, that’s probably a good idea. But I do worry that everyone is getting so depressed nobody is going to laugh about anything.”
As the Biden era is ushered in officially with the inauguration, Gray is interested in the fate of so-called ‘Trumpism’ and expects that a modern-day ‘Patriot Party’ may be formed after high-profile Republicans turned their backs on the outgoing President. “Fairly sane people are getting involved with the Q[anon conspiracy] and you just think – what’s going on there? I’m also looking forward to getting stuck into the Biden administration. I think there’s going to be a lot of fun to have there,” he said.
Specifically, Gray, who described the incoming government as “more Obama than the Obama administration”, sees potential for scandal and “really s**t government pretending to be competent”. The Spectator USA has subsequently unveiled a Wokeyleaks column, where anonymous sources mostly in the entertainment industry can divulge classified information “without fear of getting cancelled”, while the “very well connected” and California-based Melissa Chen will be launching a fortnightly podcast sometime soon.
A self-described “free speech enthusiast”, Gray is also worried about the “really sinister” de-platforming spree in the wake of the US Capitol riots, where social media companies have removed and/or blocked Trump from their platforms and alternative social media app Parler has been suspended from the AWS server service by Amazon.
“I hope it’s a tactical mistake from Silicon Valley and the people that do it crash and burn,” Gray said of Big Tech’s reaction.
The Spectator USA had its own issues after Facebook stopped new political ads appearing on its platform a week before 3 November, White House election day. The outlet was caught-up in the ban even though it is not a political organisation and has since applied for editorial status.
Gray, meanwhile, is hoping to roll-out new regular contributors and writers in a bid to find fresh pools of audiences and he identified the inner workings of Biden’s team and the Democrats at-large as a “weak spot” in The Spectator USA’s coverage.
“You’ve got a lot of media who will go full-blown ‘he’s a socialist’, our opportunity could be on the left with people who don’t like Biden,” Gray said, who predicts that “the swampy stuff, the stuff that got Trump elected”, will return over the next few years in a “big way”.
“There is also an opportunity to write about heartland America, something The American Conservative has done well – what life is like in America outside of Washington DC, New York and Los Angeles,” he added. And who else does Gray rate in US media? “[Fox News’] Tucker Carlson...he’s not a Trump sycophant in any way, but he’s good at getting stuck into big issues in a quick and immediate way.”
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A microbranding strategy for journalism.
More details on the GB News launch.
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Canada’s Data Driven 2021 on Thursday 28 and Friday 29 January.
Knight Media Forum between Monday 1 March and Wednesday 3 March.
News Product Alliance Summit between Tuesday 30 March and Wednesday 31 March.
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Latest research on how Americans are using social media for news.
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Image: Future News, Spectator USA, “TV Error" by Sibe Kokke is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/4142290...