A Note On Joining The Young Turks

Michael Tracey
3 min readJan 21, 2017


Yesterday it was announced that I’ll be joining The Young Turks, the massive and rapidly-expanding online news organization. TYT played a huge role over the course of the 2016 campaign in particular, galvanizing momentum for Bernie Sanders among a demographic that gets its news by doing things other than sitting around watching cable TV: they get it in bits and pieces on YouTube, sometimes on longer internet-streamed broadcasts, and by following trusted news-purveyors on Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere.

Naturally, one of the big objections that I heard in the aftermath of the announcement was that my editorial independence would necessarily be compromised by the new affiliation with TYT. It’s a reasonable objection, because as I’ve long noted, journalists and commentators too often get corrupted by the environments in which they move. And it’s not usually conscious; it’s not like they’re sitting around saying, “You know what, I’m going to jettison my principles and engage in corruptive activity because I really want to placate my financial benefactors and social peers.” The corruption is often far more subtle than that, and comes in barely-noticeable increments.

So that’s what one has to be on the watch for — the small, seemingly inconsequential steps toward becoming “suborned.” The steps might not seem overly significant in isolation, but taken in aggregate they eventually mean you’ve forfeited your principles and become hopelessly enmeshed in the system that you claimed to hate.

So I’m keenly aware of that potentiality. And that’s a big part of the reason why I accepted the offer to join TYT. Inherent in the position is a large amount of editorial independence; of course if I run around doing something completely unhinged or hysterical, somebody at TYT will probably object. Absent that, anything within the bounds of reasonability is not just accepted, but encouraged. Nobody’s going to be dictating to me what to do, say, or think, other than the basics of the news-gathering / editorial process that you’d see anywhere. Cenk personally assured me of this and I wouldn’t have accepted the offer if I didn’t have an extremely high expectation that I will be able to retain my independence.

TYT is also an avowedly “progressive” outfit, and that’s perfectly fine with me. I’ve always melded well with people of a wide variety of ideological dispositions. “Progressive” would probably not be my go-to word to describe my own political orientation, but I certainly support numerous progressive positions and largely take a “progressive” view of social/cultural issues. In general I tend to think that the flaunting of labels is not particularly worthwhile and confers no utility; it just allows people to pigeonhole you, and serves no commensurate advantageous function. I think of myself foremost as a journalist and a critic — people are free to assign whatever ideological characterization they wish. I’ve always been upfront about the candidates I’ve voted for and so forth — transparency is usually the best policy.

I’ve also always appreciated engaging with a wide array of people with varying political views, and it’s going to be my intent to continue that even within the context of an avowedly “progressive” organization. I’ve worked for outlets in the past that could be described as “progressive,” so this is nothing new.

That all said, I want to remain open to scrutiny, and I value external criticism. As much as I might want to take measures to ensure my independence, it’s always necessary to have outside actors exercising accountability.

I really appreciate the support that everyone has given me over the past several months; it’s been incredibly gratifying. At this point I’m going to stop actively soliciting funds, which is a relief, but it was also really heartening to know that soliciting funds from one’s readership could feasibly form a foundation from which one could carry out real journalistic work. TYT proves that too, in a way — the reason they’ve been able to expand is because viewers/readers shelled out the requisite cash. So I think of my joining TYT as a continuation of the journalism-funding philosophy that I was trying to promote before.

The symbolism of the announcement coming at almost precisely the moment that Trump took office was not lost on me; it’s a new era, in multiple ways. Let’s see what happens.




Michael Tracey