When did Substack start breaking more big news stories than CNN?
“Why is Benjamin Netanyahu the man that Israelis just can’t quit? And what does it mean for Israel that he’s attempting to form a government with some of the most far-right parties in the country — parties that, until recently, were at the very fringes of Israeli politics?”
They are the same questions plenty of major media outlets have been asking since the return of Benjamin Netanyahu to the Prime Minister’s seat in Israel on November 3, 2022: The New York Times, New Yorker, Washington Post, CNN, the Economist, CNN.
Major media outlets have written book reviews of Netanyahu’s recent book; Netanyahu even spent a few minutes on Meet the Press last week.
But it was Substack journalist Bari Weiss who scored an in-depth interview with Netanyahu. Her questions were the questions many journalists would have asked Netanyahu if given the chance.
Weiss was an excellent choice for Prime Minister Netanyahu. Not only is she an exceptional journalist and writer, who also happens to be both Jewish and a member of the gay community, but politically, Weiss is on the progressive side of the spectrum.
Whatever her politics, or feelings about Netanyahu, however, Weiss is fair, experienced, balanced, and isn’t beholden to corporate interests.
For Prime Minister Netanyahu to select Bari Weiss to give an hour-long interview — a self-published Substack writer, whatever her other credentials or resume — rather than someone from a major news network, is a referendum on the state of the U.S. media landscape as much as it is a credit to Weiss herself, though she undoubtedly deserves the credit.
Who does the new Prime Minister of Israel trust to interview him fairly and report his responses faithfully? Bari Weiss.
“Bibi’s Back: A Conversation With Israel’s New Prime Minister,” was a tremendous and unexpected coup for Weiss. The eyes of her Substack subscribers must have boggled at the email subject line the day she sent it.
A “conversation” with Israel’s new Prime Minister? That’s impressive for any media outlet, let alone an upstart platform like Substack.
The former New York Times colleagues of Ms. Weiss were probably equally impressed, even as they grumbled on Slack about sellouts trading on their old alma mater.
“I spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu on the eve of his return to power and on the occasion of the publication of his book, Bibi: My Story, an autobiography about his evolution from soldier to statesman,” Weiss prefaced the interview.
“We only had an hour together — he squeezed this in between coalition talks — so there were lots of things we couldn’t get to,” she continued modestly. “But we talked about why he’s been elected for a third time; how he draws moral lines as a leader; Trump’s dinner with Kanye; the prospect of peace with the Palestinians; the Abraham Accords and if Saudi Arabia could be next; China; his message to Jews in the West facing antisemitism; and how he plans to uphold Israel’s delicate balance between Judaism and democracy as he steps in to lead his country once more.”
No big deal; just a Substack writer scoring an in-depth interview on a range of important topics with one of the most powerful, dynamic, controversial, and successful leaders in Israeli history.
It was an all-around big week for Substack.
Also writing on Substack is an expatriate of another major media outlet: Rolling Stone’s one-time star reporter, Matt Taibbi. His subscribers were also treated to a shocking email this week.
Many were still snickering over Taibbi’s recent triumph in a major debate, “Be it resolved: Don’t trust mainstream media,” when they received a surprising missive.
“It’s about to get weird in here,” Taibbi began, appealing for patience from his regular readers.
“Very shortly, I’m going to begin posting a long thread of information on Twitter, at my account, @mtaibbi,” Taibbi continued. “This material is likely to get a lot of attention. I will absolutely understand if subscribers are angry that it is not appearing here on Substack first. I’d be angry, too.”
He was wrong though: Most of his subscribers weren’t angry at all. They were salivating, titillated, waiting breathlessly for the rest of the scoop, hanging on his every word.
Most of his subscribers had a pretty good idea of what their intrepid journalist was referring to the moment they read his email.
Especially as the spoiler alert continued. Taibbi dropped plenty of obvious hints, including a prominent Twitter icon in the title photo and a link to his Twitter account titled: “1: Thread: THE TWITTER FILES.”
Between the lines, Taibbi gave his subscribers the story first: Elon Musk was about to release internal communications on Twitter censorship, as he has been threatening to do since buying the place. Naturally, Musk would want the information released on Twitter.
And Matt Taibbi, Substack, was getting the story.
Elon Musk could have gone to anyone with this story; anyone in the world. He could have assembled a team of journalists to simultaneously publish the Twitter Files in every major media market in America.
Who did Musk trust with his cache of internal communications?
The first revelations from the data exposed by Musk through Taibbi have been explosive enough; more is certainly to come.
And when it does, the news will break first where most news seems to be breaking these days.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)