Just a few short months after its launch, The Reload is receiving a flood of praise for the impact of its journalism.
Commentators, Hill staffers, and activist groups alike spotlighted The Reload‘s exclusive reporting on questions about President Joe Biden’s ATF director nominee over the past week for making “a world of difference” in Biden’s decision to drop his nomination. The Reload recently published a series of stories on allegations that nominee David Chipman made racist remarks and, separately, attempted to torpedo a Black agent’s career over a false claim of cheating the agent claims was racially motivated. The stories also featured former and current ATF agents warning Chipman’s history as a paid gun-control activist would hinder the agency’s ability to work with the firearms industry on criminal cases.
A source with knowledge of the fight over Chipman’s appointment in the Senate told The Reload its reporting dug up questions not previously known to the Senators who ultimately blocked him.
“The Reload‘s meticulously reported stories made a world of difference,” the source said. “The Dems knew what they were getting with Chipman on the gun issues. Public anger over Chipman’s views on gun control and confiscation wouldn’t sink his nom because Dems were ready to pay that price to get the most extreme gun-control advocates off their backs. But the Reload stories on Chipman’s history of racism, as well as other stories on his bashing America on behalf of Chinese propagandists, raised the political cost way higher than Dems were willing to pay.”
The source said Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R. Ky.), who called for Chipman’s withdrawal while citing a Reload story, used the newly uncovered information to pressure Democratic moderates on the vote.
“Leader McConnell was able to use those stories to hit the Dems on two issues that they’re really sensitive about—race relations and weakness on China,” they said. “And it probably killed the nom.”
Open Source Defense, a gun-rights organization, drew a direct line between The Reload‘s reporting and Chipman’s nomination being pulled.
“The series of events was roughly as follows,” it said in its latest newsletter. “April 8: David Chipman (an employee of the Giffords org and before that a longtime ATF agent) gets nominated by the president to head the ATF. In a narrowly divided Senate, the Chipman’s chances for confirmation are uncertain. No news for a while, and there’s behind-the-scenes political wrangling to win over fence-sitting senators. July 28: Stephen Gutowski of The Reload publishes a damaging report about Chipman, quoting several of Chipman’s former ATF coworkers. August 11: Gutowski publishes a second report about Chipman, with quotes from another ATF coworker. September 9: The White House withdraws the Chipman nomination.”
Radio show host Erick Erickson went further in emphasizing the impact of Reload founder Stephen Gutowski’s reporting on the nomination.
“You see results like this with The Reload; you got a democratic-controlled Senate that could not confirm an ATF nominee because a guy like Stephen Gutowski took it upon himself to go out, start a site, take a chance, got subscribers, did real on-the-ground credible and legit reporting following the ethical standards of mainstream journalism,” he said during discussion of the nomination on his show last week. “And his reporting led to a nomination not going through. He should be commended for that. The left will never commend him; the mainstream media won’t give him credit for it. But am I willing to do an entire monologue talking about conservative journalism and why we need it and giving Stephen credit? Absolutely, because somebody’s got to do it.”
Open Source Defense noted The Reload was able to have a significant impact at the highest levels of government through its reporting despite being recently founded without backing from any major companies or non-profits, instead relying on self-funding and membership sales. It said the success was further evidence of the Internet’s utility at broadening the impact of dedicated individuals and leveling the playing field.
“Gutowski is a journalist who left his job at the Washington Free Beacon to launch The Reload just five months ago, on April 19. So if you squint a bit, what happened here is that one guy in his house writing a freemium news site that didn’t even exist at the time Chipman was nominated took down a presidential nominee. That’s not supposed to happen, but the internet has done similar things so many times that it almost seems boring to point it out. Of course, a dedicated individual used the internet as a giant force multiplier. That’s basically the internet’s whole deal.”
Erickson said The Reload‘s serious approach to journalism set it apart from other independent outlets and played a crucial role in its reporting having a significant impact on a nomination for one of the country’s most important law enforcement posts.
“Here you’ve got a site like The Reload which–with original reporting: a non-salacious, non-scandal, non-bs news story–was able to take out a nominee,” he said. “There are so many people right now who are chasing clickbait, and the stories they generate lack credibility. And that’s part of the problem here. Here’s The Reload, a conservative news site, that–literally–because of original reporting has taken out David Chipman, the far-left progressive anti-gun radical Joe Biden wanted to be ATF chair. How many people subscribe to The Reload? I have no idea. But I would submit it’s worth supporting.”