A Grateful Reader
We exist to make a point, not a profit. But we need to stay afloat.


Thank you for reading National Review Online (and that little companion mag we have). Thank you for donating to us. Thank you for talking us up, passing us around, forwarding us around. Thank you for being part of the general deal.

I grew up in the Detroit media market, and our PBS station would have telethons. The chief “thonner,” or pitcher, was a woman named Aggie, for Agnes. Oh, she pitched her heart out. She was emotionally involved — not quite at the Jerry Lewis level, but still very passionate. You couldn’t help donating to her, and to the station. I sent in my allowance money, I guess.

Who could have known that, one day, I would wind up in the position of Aggie? I have no problem pitching for NRO. Why? First, because I love it, and “believe” in it. (Gooey language, I know.) Second, because I don’t have much to do with it, except to contribute my few scribbles. (Not few enough, some would say.) The work is done by others. So I can praise and puff to my heart’s content.

I am a daily reader of NRO, and get a huge amount out of it. Sometimes I’m just avoiding work, clicking on other people’s articles. Most of the time, I’m not avoiding work, just being an eager, grateful reader. I learn things, am entertained by things. I’m inspired, consoled, bolstered, provoked. Some of my favorite writers are gathered on this site. We don’t even have to use full names: K-Lo, DP-J, VDH . . .  I am always being introduced to new writers, too. NRO is both familiar and fresh.

Do I like everything I click on? Heavens, no. No one could like every single item. I don’t even like everything I write! But you can always click on something else, something nearby. We give you an array of choices (right of center, to be sure).

We’re not all politics, all the time — and hurray for that. We talk about literature, music, the movies. A reader wrote me the other day to say, “Right Field [our new sports blog] is fantastic. Out of the park.” All politics and no play makes Jack a dull boy, and a product associated with William F. Buckley Jr. had better not be dull.

You might say, “Well, if you like NRO so much, Mr. Pitchman, why don’t you donate money?” I do. I think it worthwhile. NRO is free to readers, but it has to be paid for. And I’m happy to contribute my mite.

I pay for very little journalism these days. You? There is so much free, on the Web. I used to buy five newspapers; now I’m down to none. I used to subscribe to the digital version of The Spectator. Now they put it all free (I believe) on the Web. NRO is part of the tradition of, “Hey, it’s free!” But, again, the bills have to be paid. We have to scrounge for dough, sing for our supper. The site, like the magazine, is not on autopilot. It won’t just be there every day, like the sun. (I realize it rains sometimes.)

Bill Buckley busted his hump for 50 years keeping this magazine afloat. We will do a little hump-busting ourselves, for flotation. He used to say, “We exist to make a point, not a profit.” But we have to mitigate our financial losses in order to keep making a point.

By the way, we have never relied on the big-dollar donor. We’re happy to have them, believe me! But we have had all too few such donors. We’ve relied on those who could give a little. Lots of people giving a little: That’s what has kept us afloat.

When I was coming of age, National Review meant a lot to me. It didn’t teach me what to think. But it helped teach me how to think. I owe it a lot. Today as before, the magazine enriches my mental life. So does its companion site. They are “points of light” for me, as the first Bush might say. Basically, that’s why I shell out.

So, that’s my pitch, and thank you again.

— Jay Nordlinger is a senior editor of National Review.


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