Public Discourse exists to fill a void in the internet publishing world. When we launched five years ago, I put it this way:
We live in a sound-bite age. Rhetoric often replaces reason. Considered judgments often yield to the pressure for quick reactions. Serious moral reasoning often gets short shrift in our public discussions. Public Discourse seeks to fill this vacuum. We make use of the new forums for communication that modern technology provides, but we don’t let them undermine the quality of our thinking. We draw on some of the academy’s best scholars, making their years of study and expertise available and accessible to a broader community, but we don’t get bogged down in technicalities and academic jargon. We can do this, because at the Witherspoon Institute we have created a community of distinguished scholars from diverse backgrounds and fields of study. Public Discourse brings these voices to the public. And we don’t shy away from the most controversial of questions, convinced that careful reasoning can settle many of the challenges before us.
We are not a Journal. We are not a Blog. Our aim is to provide a venue where readers can find out what our associated scholars are thinking about or working on—whether in their own academic scholarship or in informed commentary on contemporary events. Our hope is that by benefiting from these scholars’ perspectives, readers will be better equipped to form their own.
I think we’ve been pretty successful. Consider just a handful of our articles from the past month:
Jean Bethke Elshtain: “Why Is It So Difficult to Discuss Marriage?”
Stella Morabito: “Dissecting Political Correctness”
Elise Italiano: “Collaborative Reproduction and the Things We Should Not Do”
Alana Newman: “What Are the Rights of Donor-Conceived People?”
Paul McHugh and Gerard Bradley: “Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Employment Law”
Robert P. George: “What Is Religious Freedom?”
Rick Garnett: “Mary Ann Glendon and the Structure of Religious Freedom”
Frank Schubert: “The Legal Circus That Killed Proposition 8”
When we launched we were publishing two articles a week. A year or so later we moved to three articles. Then, this time two years ago, we started publishing an article every weekday.
Our contributors—thoughtful, intelligent, insightful—have made Public Discourse the forum we first envisioned for our readers. While we don’t pay them much, we do compensate them for their time and effort in writing for us.
And our editorial team has been top-notch. Over the past five years, several excellent managing editors have worked for Public Discourse: first Matthew Schmitz (now deputy editor of First Things), then Lauren Wilson (now managing editor of First Things), then Octavia Ratiu (now pursing graduate studies at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences), and most recently Gabrielle Speach (who is departing to pursue graduate studies at Princeton University). This month we welcomed Serena White (soon to become Serena Sigillito), who recently graduated from the Catholic University of America with a Master’s degree in English after completing her undergraduate studies at the University of Dallas.
Young editors need to eat, so we try to pay them a living wage.
We must also meet the costs of maintaining the website, the e-mailing program, and several other technologies that make online publications thrive.
These efforts don’t require too much money, but they do require some. If you enjoy reading these articles and would like to help support the success of Public Discourse, please consider making a donation to our publisher, the Witherspoon Institute. You can do so here; please include a note marking it for Public Discourse.
Public Discourse will resume publishing right after Labor Day, as a dissertation needs to be written.