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The Dirt

Bob Dunning & Wendy Weitzel bestsellers on Substack

By: Hanna Nakano

The longest-running newspaper column in America was dropped from The Enterprise last month with a quick phone call to lay off writer Bob Dunning. Dunning, who named Davis “the town of all things right and relevant”, took a beat—and then took to Substack to continue his column The Wary One in a direct-to-reader fashion.

Within days, Dunning had amassed thousands of followers on the platform. One he hadn’t even heard of days earlier.

“It’s true, I did not know about Substack. But my sweetheart, Shelley, and all six of my kids, not only knew about it, they were confident this would be a great place for my column to continue uninterrupted. They were right. They were so, so right,” Dunning told The Dirt. “Almost overnight, I had several thousand subscribers, and just two weeks after launch we’re nearing 4,000. It’s unbelievable, at least to me. I feel like I’m living a dream. I’ve never traveled at the speed of light before, but it’s certainly thrilling.”

What that newspaper may have failed to comprehend before phoning Dunning was the following he had amassed over the last 54 years. Nimble like Dunning, they followed him to Substack in one week, paying subscription fees for the privilege of seeing Bob Dunning’s name and words in their inbox.

Substack allows writers and journalists to publish their own work on a subscription basis, behind a paywall. It’s not much different than how Dunning’s column worked with The Enterprise—only this time, he’s in control of his words and their value.

A subscription to The Wary One is $7/month, $70/year, or $350 for founding, life-long membership.

One week after Dunning was laid off, Comings & Goings columnist Wendy Weitzel left The Enterprise in an act of solidarity. She joined Dunning on his Substack journey.

Both have become Substack bestsellers.

Weitzel started Comings & Goings to cover business news in Davis and Yolo County in 2001, but her history with the paper goes back even further. The decision to leave, she said, was tough.

“The biggest decision was whether to leave the paper I’ve loved for 25 years. I had some friends urging me to quit immediately when they heard Bob didn’t get a severance after 54 years. I waited a week to verify the news and see if McNaughton Media would bow to the pressure and give him a severance. They didn’t. I wanted to write a farewell column. Several other writers who quit over this did so quietly,” Weitzel told The Dirt.

Comings & Goings, which had long been the most clicked on content on The Enterprise’s website, made a natural transition to Substack. And subscribers can get excited about new types of reporting and content from Weitzel on this new platform.

“I am no longer limited to my Friday morning deadline for the Sunday business page. I can post when news breaks. Also, I can expand to cover areas that overlap with Enterprise reporters’ beats without worrying about stepping on toes. Likewise, I don’t have to worry about Enterprise reporters covering my beat,” she explained. “Since it’s an online-only platform, I can add lots of links to business websites or related news, without making the text too cumbersome.”

In small towns, news travels fast.

So, too, does compassion.

“The outpouring of support has truly overwhelmed me. It’s so heartening. I type for a living. I didn’t expect this. Sure, I knew I had a number of readers and I’ve been a part of this town for a very long time, but this reaction was a direct hit to the heart. I will be forever grateful. I shouldn’t be surprised,” Dunning said. “Davis is a loving and giving town, filled with good and decent and honest and very kind people. I thank them all with every fiber of my being. Their love and their support mean the world to me and helped me through a very difficult time. God Bless them all.”

Follow Bob Dunning at

Follow Wendy Weitzel at

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