david french headshot

David French

After graduating from Lipscomb University and Harvard Law School in the early nineties, he worked for two prestigious law firms, one in New York and one in his home state of Kentucky. He also lectured at Cornell Law School.

He has litigated numerous high-profile religious liberty cases and served on staff with non-profits dedicated to religious liberty and justice issues.

He’s a former major in the United States Army Reserve, having been deployed to Iraq in 2007 as part of the Judge Advocate General Corps. He was awarded a Bronze Star.

He’s written for well-known national publications and is a regular columnist for Time. He’s also an author whose most recent book, Divided We Fall: America’s Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation, was released last year.

And for a few days in 2016, he was considered a contender for the GOP presidential nomination after a nationally syndicated columnist floated his name as one who might slow Donald Trump’s momentum.

Drawing on that breadth of employment and life experience, David French, who lives with his wife and family in Franklin, is now immersed in yet another day job.

This time it’s as Senior Editor for The Dispatch, “a digital media company providing engaged citizens with fact-based reporting and commentary on politics, policy and culture—informed by conservative principles,” according to its website (www.thedispatch.com).

The founders, Steve Hayes, former Editor-in-chief of the now-defunct Weekly Standard, and Jonah Goldberg, a former editor at The National Review, recruited French as their third employee.  

In a recent interview, French said after hearing Hayes describe the idea of a new publication during a telephone conversation in the summer of 2019, he immediately “loved the vision.” The Dispatch launched later that year.

That vision includes a departure from the “clickbait” model some outlets use, enticing readers with sensational headlines. Data collected on numbers of readers that follow a headline to a full story can be used to lure advertisers.  

The Dispatch, on the other hand, is subscription based, and only sells advertising for its related podcasts.

In addition, said French, “we don’t chase the news cycle. There is a heavy emphasis on reporting and analysis with less raw opinion.”

French says The Dispatch’s dozen-or-so writers, while leaning ideologically to the right and making no apology for it, are still fiercely devoted to non-partisan reporting, allowing no deference to either major political party.

Anyone can read content from The Dispatch by going to the website. There are also various podcasts anchored by its writers, available to all. Readers can sign up for emails that include selected articles and newsletters.

But to have full access to all the offerings (daily emails, articles, newsletters and podcasts), along with the ability to comment on content and engage in dialogue with other readers, a subscription (monthly or yearly) is required – and encouraged.

 “We hope that you’ll consider investing in our work and joining us with a paid membership,” the site reads.

There are also periodic live online broadcasts for which subscribers receive an access code in advance. The most recent one took place following President Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress.

Good timing

Just as it was the right time for him to join The Dispatch, French believes it is the right time for such a publication, a time when people — regardless of their political leanings — are looking for accurate reporting and analysis.

Much of what is described as “mainstream media” has leftist leanings, French said, while “the media on the right have been under tremendous pressure to fall into Trumpism.”

That pressure doesn’t sit well with French, to say the least.  He makes no secret of the fact he left the Republican Party a few years ago.  

“I did not want to be a member of the party that nominated Donald Trump,” he said.

Indeed, leading up to and following the 2020 election, much of The Dispatch commentary, including French’s, was critical of Trump. This has not made him and his fellow Dispatch writers popular with the far right, including media personalities from that camp who have taken occasional jabs at them.  

But neither French nor his colleagues are bothered by that, and he believes there is a niche for the type of content The Dispatch provides.

This has been demonstrated, he said, by the diversity of its readers and subscribers who, as shown by their online comments and emails, have wide-ranging thoughts and opinions, but are able to discuss issues in a civil manner.

That aligns perfectly with French’s personal belief in what he describes as “small ‘l’ liberalism,” under which citizens are united in a commitment to individual liberties such as those spelled out in the Bill of Rights. Those same people, he says, while sometimes – if not often — having ideological differences, don’t have to be enemies.

French’s contribution to The Dispatch includes a podcast called Advisory Opinions in which he and fellow lawyer and Dispatch staffer Sarah Isgur discuss a variety of topics and break down legal issues. Isgur also hosts The Dispatch Podcast, in which French, Goldberg and Hayes participate in a roundtable format.

In addition, part of The Dispatch lineup includes a newsletter French writes called The French Press. While midweek installments might have a summary of or comments on certain current events or politics, the Sunday newsletter always has a religious theme. (Each edition might also include personal remarks pertaining to French’s affinity for the Memphis Grizzlies or superhero movies, or his belief in the superiority of DC over Marvel).

French said the weekly religious subject matter was Hayes’s idea, hoping to compensate for a “dearth of religious writing in media.”

Faith is evident

An Evangelical Christian, French is open about his faith in his writing for The Dispatch. At the end of the Sunday newsletter, he often attaches a link to a Christian song.

Late last year, awaiting the birth of his first grandchild (a girl) who had been diagnosed in the womb with some serious complications, French asked his readers to pray for her, as well for his daughter who would be giving birth.

His granddaughter was born in December, which he promptly reported. He thanked those who prayed and asked them to continue. He has subsequently informed readers that both baby and mother are now doing well.

While writing from an Evangelical viewpoint, French is not afraid to call out his brethren. That would include those who vigorously supported (and still support) Trump despite his deep character flaws; those who have bought into conspiracy theories; and Christians who refuse to receive the COVID vaccine -- all topics French has tackled head-on in The French Press.

On March 7th, he made the case for his fellow believers to get the vaccine, concluding that, “If every Christian can read and understand the biblical concept that ‘greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends,’ then we can also understand the lesser love—that sometimes we need to trust, to take a small risk, and take a shot not just for ourselves, but also for our friends, our family, and the country we love.”

He has also written extensively about Christian organizations mired in scandal and controversy. Knowing how that typically hits a nerve and that he opens himself up to judgment and criticism in doing so, French stands firm in what he has written. He sees it simply as a quest for the truth, a central tenet of the Christian faith.

Future of The Dispatch

French believes the future is bright for The Dispatch. Although nearly all his colleagues are based in D.C., he plans to continue living here in Williamson County. He said he will, however, likely travel to Washington more often now that pandemic travel restrictions have been relaxed and new COVID cases are lessening.

One of the most important things he and the founders have learned over the brief life of their news organization is that “there is a hunger for understanding of what is happening to our country, and a hunger for reasonable solutions.”

French believes The Dispatch, tapping into that hunger, will continue to gain readers, and more writers will be added as readership grows. Plans are also in the works for onsite live events which have not been feasible over the past year due to the pandemic.

“There are people who are disgruntled with the national media environment,” French said.

“We want to give them a lifeline.” 

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at [email protected].

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