How Substack Writers can Address the
Crisis of Trust in Media
Featuring article and video by Matt Taibbi and Matt Orfalea
1) The Problem:
Unfortunately, while Racket News’s existing subscribers (like me) are receptive to stories that challenge partisan affiliations and the Overton Window, I found that when I shared the Nord Stream article with some friends, it was met with resistance that I suspect is preventing Substack outlets like Racket News from broadening their subscriber base.
I’ve been developing the CiteIt Citation App to address 4 stumbling blocks faced by Substack writers:
Skeptics suspect that quotes have been taken out of context,
while also being ..
too busy and dismissive to investigate whether their suspicions or a the writer’s negative reputation are warranted.
- Responsible writers need a way to differentiate themselves from the irresponsible.
- Gatekeepers and partisans censor, shadow-ban, and nitpick good reporting, threatening independent media with perjury charges or challenging the Substack business model by asserting that independent writers need editors, saying:
they pretend that they’re being censored when in reality they just don’t want editors but they need them.
2) How CiteIt Works:
Let’s look at an example article — Matt Taibbi’s Nord Stream article — containing what I call “naked quotations” — that is quotations that have no surrounding context.
These type of quotations are regarded with suspicion by non-aligned non-subscribers.
Now, lets see the same article, only with the writer using CiteIt to:
link to their sources,
lookup the context, and
display it to the reader:
The Video and Transcript have been looked up from the link:
(right side popup: “Quote Context by CiteIt.net”)
- Using the current WordPress implementation of CiteIt, the plugin adds 2 custom buttons to the editor.
- The writers click on the “CiteIt inline popup button,” and paste in the source URL just like a traditional editor “link” button.
The Writer enters the link URL after they select the quote and click the "CiteIt inline popup button.
Then when the article is published, the CiteIt App locates all the cited web sources and YouTube video transcripts.
The CiteIt webservice then finds the 500 characters of context before and after the quote and saves that information to display when the reader requests it.
Contextual citations are about more than policing cherry-picked quotes or disinformation. Contextual Citations give readers a better understanding of the source. This can clearly be seen when readers are able to dive into the context surrounding quotes like
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
3) What Success Would Look Like:
I want Substack to establish a reputation for a higher standard of transparency and trust in media by:
better informing their readers,
build trust, and
helping to differentiate Substack from platforms like Twitter and Threads,
defending reputations from gatekeepers and partisans.
If I aim higher, I will know we’ve been maximally successful when I hear the concept of contextual citations discussed in general conversation:
associated with Substack, trust, innovation, and independent writers,
described as a solution to "naked quotations," and
used as a critique of establishment media that does not provide contextual transparency.
4) Working with Substack
I anticipate that I would best be able to realize my vision for contextual citations by working with Substack. CiteIt technology could be deployed first for long-form writing, and later across the platform:
5) Watch Demo: (A Writer’s view)
Documentation: how to use the WordPress plugin