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Brett Arends’s ROI: How much? Times walkout Bari Weiss breaks the rules, makes a mint

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If you’re fed up with your employer and you want to quit your job, you probably don’t want to do it the way Bari Weiss did it.

The opinion writer and editor quit the New York Times just over a year ago without a backup plan ready.

And she publicly trashed her former employer on her way out the door as well, in a devastating open letter.

“When I left the Times I had no plan, which in retrospect was completely foolish,” she says. “I had no idea. I didn’t make a choice for a while because I was so in a way shocked by what I had just done and wasn’t sure what the next step would be.”
She was, she says, “blackout emotional.”

“I was…overwhelmed and really nervous about what was going to happen next,” she says.

Meanwhile, “It was clear I wasn’t going to get a job in the corporate press, because who would want to hire me after I had done such a thing?”

Oh, and just to compound the stress she quit just as Weiss and her wife were planning to start a family.

Yikes.

We’re suddenly in an era being labeled The Great Resignation, as millions of Americans decide they want to do something better with their lives than work for The Man in a job that makes them miserable.

Weiss, who quit in July of 2020, before the vaccines and the economic recovery, did everything we’re taught not to do when leaving a job. 

In her open letter, Weiss slammed the Times for everything from ideological groupthink and pandering to Twitter to tolerating an internal culture of bullying.
The Times did not respond to emails seeking comment.

But here’s the twist. In today’s upside-down media world, where corporate media bows to ‘social’ media and to be interesting is to be ‘canceled,’ Weiss ended up on top.

A year on, Weiss has a podcast and a newsletter on Substack, the growing independent media platform now hosting the likes of Matt Taibbi, Glenn Greenwald, Andrew Sullivan and Matt Yglesias. She has been making waves. A recent newsletter and podcast is taking another look at the case of the so-called Central Park Karen, the New York dogwalker caught up in a racism row last year.

As her own boss, Weiss is already making way more money than she did working for The Man.

How much more?

So far, ‘Common Sense with Bari Weiss‘ has signed up more than 14,000 paying subscribers at $5 each in her first six months, she tells me. She has another 75,000 nonpaying followers. The numbers have been confirmed (with Weiss’s permission) by Substack.

That means her revenues are running at an annual rate of more than $800,000 a year. And rising.

When I did the math my jaw dropped. Weiss’ newsletter has become very successful very quickly. It gave me a startling insight into the kind of money other Substackers are pulling down, including some who have many more paying subs.

“Obviously I’m making so much more money [than at the Times],” Weiss tells me. “But I’m not using it to buy a boat. I’m using it to hire other people.” She has already hired three full-time staff as well as multiple contractors. Her newsletter features articles by other people and not just by Weiss. She calls it a ‘baby oped page’ and adds: “This is just the beginning.”

Weiss was The Great Resignation before it was cool. For anyone thinking of following suit, be warned: if you go it alone you will have to reinvent yourself.
Weiss says she now has to be a businesswoman and an entrepreneur as much as a writer and editor. She has to think about payroll, health insurance, marketing, management and myriad other things on top of the actual writing and editing.
“It’s so much harder work,” she says. “I’m basically always working. It’s a startup.”

But how does she rate the change? No comparison, she says.

“I wake up every day so juiced and excited about building this,” she tells me. “I just feel so free, and unbossed, and unowned,” she tells me. “I don’t know if I’m canceled or uncanceled or precanceled, and I don’t care…I regret not doing it sooner.”

Weiss says she was miserable in her previous corporate job.

“I was unhappy… just incredibly anxious and sad,” she says. “In retrospect it was really ugly.”

Weiss says she felt increasingly at odds with the company’s politics, management and culture. “I needed either to shut up and keep my head down or I needed to leave,” says. Staying, she decided, “would require me to…kind of erase who I am. That was too high a price. We only have one life. I didn’t feel that bargain was worth it.”

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