Calling All Dissenters

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Hi, I’m Chris, the reader editor. Your emails, comments, and other contributions—which I've been workshopping lately—are going to be central to Notes, so I should detail what we have in mind and how you can get involved.

First, a little on my background, since it informs so much of what this new section is about: I worked with Andrew Sullivan and Patrick Appel on a blog called The Dish for seven years, three of those at The Atlantic. About a third of our content came from reader emails, and eventually I was editing and posting about 90% of them, usually in the form of discussion threads that lasted for weeks, months, even years. The blog never had a comments section—which, as you know, can devolve into the worst kind of discourse, taken over by trolls. Instead, the Dish constantly published dissent—the toughest, smartest, most persuasive arguments from readers. (Fallows does this especially well, while Ta-Nehisi mastered the art of a moderated comments section—and one of his most engaged readers, Yoni Appelbaum, rose to become our Politics editor.)

By the time I returned to The Atlantic last April, social media had drowned out blogging and meaningful debate in many ways. I dove deep into our comments section, Disqus, for the first time. There’s a lot of great discussion down there—Atlantic readers are a really sharp bunch—but it’s often buried in hundreds or thousands of comments that few people want to dig through. Your best writing should be elevated for everyone to see. Your strongest critiques should be engaged by our writers. It’s my job to help.

The best way to help me: Use, not Disqus, to voice your dissent and tell your stories. I will buttress your words with fact-checking, research, and reporting as much as I can. I will edit your contributions only for the sake of clarity and concision. If you prefer to stay anonymous, let me know. To encourage this culture of email, Notes won’t have a comments section.

Over time, you’ll see all your favorite Atlantic writers appear in Notes. It’s meant to be a communal space for airing thoughts that, with your input, will become articles. Conversely, it’s a space for bits of reporting and analysis that are left on the cutting room floor of articles. Ever miss those old-school blog debates? You’ll find some here. Notes will also be a hub for breaking news and ongoing coverage, led by my colleague Krishnadev, as well as a sandbox for our 158-year-old archive. Notes will be more of a broadcast than a magazine.

And it’s yours to shape. The staff and I have brainstormed all kinds of features for Notes, but we want to start things simple and evolve the section gradually, experimenting here and there, absorbing your criticism and suggestions along the way. We’ve already absorbed a lot of your feedback over the recent redesign and will incorporate some of it into Notes.

That’s it for now. Feel free to email any questions to Have any cool ideas for Notes? Email hello@. Think this section is totally lame? Email hello@. Something on piss you off today? Email hello@. Already know me and want to say hello? Email bodenner@.