Two weeks ago, we announced that OUTSET would be closing down at the end of July. I was supposed to publish this final piece yesterday, but I couldn’t get the words quite right. Or perhaps I wanted to hang on for one more day. Regardless, this will be my last article here at OUTSET, as well as the last article ever published on this network.
The story of OUTSET covers only four years, but it’s felt much longer. It was the spring of 2014 when I decided that there was a need for a new kind of publication for my generation. The process of starting this website began in an old youth-group house just across the street from my university’s campus. It was in the upstairs den that a few friends and I dug through books on linguistics, scanned dictionaries and thesauruses, and punched in countless domain variations to see if any were available. I don’t remember those other prospective names, but I did remember how I felt when we came across “outset.”
Outset (out-set) noun: the start or beginning of something.
It rolled off the tongue, rang of hope and optimism, and made me think about the future. It was a word that evoked the feeling of a new era, a new perspective, and a new way of doing things. It was the beginning of this thing.
For perspective, at the time, young conservatives did not have a thoughtful and level-headed publication that gave visibility to and opened up a dialogue about issues of importance. The leading blog was sensational and operated largely on the notion that the left is evil. There were a few other, less provocative, publications as well, but they weren’t interested in building a community or empowering a new generation of leaders. And so once the name was decided on, the site was built, a team was assembled, and the site launched in the fall of 2014. We were to be a publication that would showcase the new generation of conservatives.
We didn’t know it at the time, but American politics was about to get very interesting.
Four years later – after building an impressive list of alumni, covering three CPACs, attaining national attention, and training a new generation of conservative leaders – we’re turning off the switch and going dark.
The question is, why?
First and foremost, I would be remiss if I didn’t start by acknowledging my lack of adequate leadership. These past four years have taught me an abundance of lessons about leading an organization like OUTSET, and I’m conscious of the fact that I could have done better in a number of areas. I wish I had the ability, knowing what I know now, to reset and go back to 2014. But that’s not an option, so I’m instead grateful for the fact that I even had this opportunity to lead in the first place. This role has been a tremendous honor and privilege because I was able to work with some of the smartest and hopeful people in the country. I now get to say I know the people who will go out and improve our world.
Next, it’s challenging to debrief on this moment without bringing up the political climate we currently find ourselves in. I’ll be brazen, our conservative movement has forgotten what is important and, to take it even further, who we are. During the 2016 election cycle, we didn’t go as far as declaring ourselves Never Trump – I believed then as I do now that we ought to give him credit when credit is due. But that election cycle proved to be a pivotal one for our organization. We had team members who simply felt defeated and voiceless after the election, and I can’t say I blame them. Watching the movement we love give into short-term power at the cost of long-term influence is painful, but it’s the reality we find ourselves living in. We’re in a fight for the very soul of conservatism.
“Institutions crumble, but ideas endure. Our organization may be gone, but the value and principles we hold dear are far from gone.”
As I said in our original announcement a few weeks ago on social media, despite our closure, I still believe in our mission. I started OUTSET as a place where good people could come together and do good things, united behind the principles and ideas that make America exceptional. We accomplished just that, and it’s my belief that our mission of being a voice of reason will live on in the teammates who have passed through our network. That is, after all, what conservatism is about – the individual. Institutions crumble, but ideas endure. Our organization may be gone, but the value and principles we hold dear are far from gone.
As I close, I want to thank the readers, viewers, and listeners who consumed and shared our content over the past four years. Your patronage fueled our efforts. In today’s world of social media, having an audience is often underappreciated – we expect it. However, we always knew we had to work hard to keep one, so thank you for indulging us with your attention.
I also want to thank a few specific people for their service. Thank you to Benji Backer and Bethany Bowra, some of our original supporters and two great friends who I am so happy to have met through this project. Thank you to Caleb Franz and Danielle Butcher, my trusted advisors, partners, and best friends. Thank you to Karly Matthews, Evan Schrage, Conrad Close, Jocelyne Flores, and Josiah Popp– all of whom have served as editors here, and good ones at that. Finally, thank you to the Contributors who gave us more than just their time and talent. They gave us a reason to exist, and something to show for it.
As cliché as it may be, today is not a goodbye, but a see you later. Please, do not lose hope and never stop fighting. I know I won’t.
Stephen N. Perkins, EIC