The status of conservative media, through the eyes of Victorino Matus

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Friday, November 22, 2019


When Matthew Continetti started as an intern at The Weekly Standard in the early 2000s, Victorino Matus had no idea the young college student would eventually become his boss. At the time, Matus was an editor for the since defunct conservative magazine, while Continetti worked as Fred Barnes’s assistant. Today, Matus is the deputy editor of the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news website co-founded by Continetti in 2012. 

Despite his high ranking in the world of conservative media, Matus — who goes by Vic — never planned on entering the journalism profession. Matus studied international relations at Georgetown — never once taking a journalism or English course. Still, after interning with the White House Writers Group, where he built a strong relationship with John Podhoretz, he started at The Weekly Standard in 1996 at the age of 23. 

While discussions of C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton filled the office, Matus was simply trying to gain an understanding of how a newsroom works. He never worked for a publication before — not even his school newspaper. 

“I always found myself playing catch-up,” Matus said of his conversations with The Weekly Standard staff. “I didn’t know much about reporting — I had to learn it the hard way.” 

Luckily for Matus, he had plenty of minds to learn from. The magazine included famous conservative writers such as Bill Kristol, Tucker Carlson, P. J. O’Rourke, David Frum and the late Charles Krauthammer. 

The Weekly Standard collapsed in late 2018, but its alumni remain successful. When Continetti began interning for the magazine under Fred Barnes, he succeeded Neomi Rao, who recently replaced Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. While Matus worked his way up the company as an editor, Continetti went from a young intern to a reliable writer and eventual opinion editor. Today, Continetti writes a weekly Friday column for the Free Beacon.

“He is a voracious reader,” Matus said of Continetti. “To be a better writer, you have to read more.” 

Matus built a strong working and personal relationship with Continetti, who hired him to work for the Washington Free Beacon in 2016, ending his 20-year career at the Weekly Standard

“I reached the top of the ladder for me at the Standard,” he said, adding that it took about a year to adjust to his new role at the Free Beacon

Now, according to Matus, adjustment is the theme of the Free Beacon. Continetti recently stepped down from his position as editor-in-chief of the conservative news website as he moved into a new role at the American Enterprise Institute. In September, it was announced that Eliana Johnson would fill Continetti’s role — making her the first woman to become an editor-in-chief of a conservative news outlet. Johnson previously worked as a White House reporter for Politico and the Washington editor of National Review

“We want to be a conservative breaking news machine,” Matus said. “We’re working with writers on getting more scoops,” he continued, saying the management’s goal is for the website to become similar to Politico, but in its own witty, conservative style. 

Despite the Free Beacon’s focus on producing original reporting, the outlet is far from mainstream within journalism circles due to its admitted conservative leanings and occasional satirical content. Matus said conservative outlets aim to report on “what’s not being covered by the mainstream,” although, he said he worries there is a lack of original reporting. 

“There’s an obsession on the internet for traffic and clicks,” he said. “When you become enslaved to clicks, you become a news aggregator.” 

The cheerful, humorous demeanor of Matus, which can be heard weekly as he co-hosts “The Sub-Beacon” podcast, hardly reflects his strict work as an editor — an approach he compared to a military drill sergeant. 

“I feel you can always push writers a bit harder,” he said. 

Matus said he also tries to bring this same passion when noticing exceptional work from Free Beacon writers. 

“Writers are needy people,” he said. “If you go too hard, you destroy their psyche. Bosses rarely tell you you’re doing a good job.”

Under Johnson, Matus said the Free Beacon will focus back on its founding principle of “combat journalism.” The hope, he said, is that the website reaches beyond the typical conservative media audience. 

“We want everyone to read the Free Beacon,” Matus said. “Our goal is that critics can’t say there was anything inaccurate in the article.” 

“They may not like us, but they have to concede what we say is true.” 

Patrick is the Vice President of Lone Conservative and a journalism major at the University of Maryland. He has written in the Washington Free Beacon, Washington Examiner, Media Research Center, Townhall, FEE, and more. Outside of politics, he is a devout Catholic and passionate Baltimore sports fan.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.


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About Patrick Hauf

Patrick is the Vice President of Lone Conservative and a journalism major at the University of Maryland. He has written in the Washington Free Beacon, Washington Examiner, Media Research Center, Townhall, FEE, and more. Outside of politics, he is a devout Catholic and passionate Baltimore sports fan.

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