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Utne Independent Press Awards: 2011 Nominees 

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(view press release)

The exceptional magazines nominated for the 22nd annual Utne Independent Press Awards represent the best of what we read in 2010. And we read a lot. Nearly 1,300 periodicals route through the Utne Reader office; whittling that number down to 64—truly the pride of the alternative press—is a formidable task.

As nomination time nears, our editorial team trolls Utne’s extensive library stacks. We pore over the year’s most exciting and affecting ideas, peruse examples of shockingly good writing, and admire elements from covers to coverage. When we gather to deliberate, we often find that every independent magazine has a friend at Utne Reader, making debates and voting that much more spirited.   

The winners in each category will be announced at the Magazine Publishers of America’s Independent Magazine Media Conference in San Francisco in May and published in our July-August 2011 issue. To all the publications nominated, congratulations on a crackerjack year of vital, dynamic work.

GENERAL EXCELLENCE  

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The American Scholar 
Since 1932, The American Scholar has provided a forum for the spirited exploration of ideas. The “venerable but lively” quarterly, published by the Phi Beta Kappa Society, enlightens and provokes readers with thoughtful prose on public affairs, history, science, and culture.   








 

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The Believer
 
An arts magazine with a decidedly literary bent, The Believer covers books, film, music, and pop culture with barely contained intellectual glee. Part of the McSweeney’s empire founded by author Dave Eggers, it constantly finds new ways to showcase the creative impulse.  






 

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High Country News
 
The Western United States is a key battleground for many environmental issues, and High Country News is your experienced and knowledgeable correspondent from the front lines. Its watchdog coverage of mining, ranching, logging—and simply Western life—is unmatched.  






 

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Mother Jones
 
Since 1976, the folks behind the investigative nonprofit Mother Jones have relentlessly and reliably delivered “smart, fearless journalism,” transcending the day’s political spin to unearth stories on everything from global climate change to torturous foreign policy decisions on both sides of the aisle.  







 

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Orion
 
The most literary of environmental magazines, Orion takes a big view, touching on spirituality, philosophy, and the arts in its gorgeous pages. Thoughtfully provocative columnists keep it from drifting off into the rapidly warming atmosphere. 






 

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The Sun
 
The Sun is the best of so many things—philosophy, spirituality, photography—but what always stands out is the writing. In essays, fiction, memoirs, and poetry, this ad-free, independent magazine lets all of its content shine brightly, whether it’s a story about a recovering alcoholic finding redemption in a new family or a poem about the sweet things we leave behind when we die.  







 

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Wax Poetics
 
A labor of love, the Brooklyn-based Wax Poetics is a geeked-out fanzine dedicated to unearthing the grittiest funk, coolest jazz, and smoothest soul ever pressed into a groove. The writers proselytize, the editors keep the mix fresh, and the archival album art and concert footage is beatific. 








 

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YES! Magazine
 
 
YES! Magazine, a magazine of “powerful ideas, practical actions” published by the nonprofit Positive Futures Network, gives us information and tools to build a more sustainable, just tomorrow. Readers cannot help but be inspired by the quarterly’s celebration of human potential and community well being.  






 

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BEST WRITING  

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The American Scholar
 
Since 1932, The American Scholar has provided a forum for the spirited exploration of ideas. The “venerable but lively” quarterly, published by the Phi Beta Kappa Society, enlightens and provokes readers with thoughtful prose on public affairs, history, science, and culture.   








 

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The Believer
 
An arts magazine with a decidedly literary bent, The Believer covers books, film, music, and pop culture with barely contained intellectual glee. Part of the McSweeney’s empire founded by author Dave Eggers, it constantly finds new ways to showcase the creative impulse.  






 

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Brick
 
Brick is published biannually, and the wait time between issues is agonizing. In 2010, the Canadian literary magazine published pieces by emerging writers alongside prose by giants Robert Hass, Geoff Dyer, and Mark Doty. The editors’ mandate is “to create a beautiful product,” and they succeed twice a year, every year.   





 

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The Brooklyn Rail
 
Oversized and stuffed, The Brooklyn Rail opens with an eclectic blend of cultural discourse and political debate, then segues into an engaging array of reviews and down-to-earth interviews with both up-and-coming and established artists.  








 

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Creative Nonfiction
 
The stories told between the covers of Creative Nonfiction are not the confessionals that dominate chain bookstore shelves; they are thoughtfully told narratives that present a universal sense of experience. Through its consistent publication of quality nonfiction prose, as well as essays examining the genre more closely, Creative Nonfiction has helped give the genre legitimacy, continuing in the footsteps of writers like Mailer, Wolfe, Capote, and Talese, who paved its way.  







 

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Portland
 
There are few university magazines that, like Portland, can be described as simply profound. At its core, the University of Portland’s beautiful publication is a Catholic endeavor, but faith isn’t so much the subject matter as the fuel for essays and reportage that challenge and inspire.  








 

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The Sun
 
The Sun is the best of so many things—philosophy, spirituality, photography—but what always stands out is the writing. In essays, fiction, memoirs, and poetry, this ad-free, independent magazine lets all of its content shine brightly, whether it’s a story about a recovering alcoholic finding redemption in a new family or a poem about the sweet things we leave behind when we die.  







 

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Tin House
 
Thirteen years ago, the founders of Tin House set out to create a journal “tantamount to being guest of honor at the greatest literary house party ever.” Mission accomplished. In its 10th year, Tin House is wildly delightful, showcasing a roster of writers both emerging and established.







 

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POLITICAL COVERAGE  

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Dissent
 
A dark horse among its peers, Dissent subverts politics-as-usual with a cogent blend of rigorous intellectualism and snarky radicalism. Eschewing partisan ideologies, this insightful quarterly never fails to “dissent from the bleak atmosphere of conformism that pervades the political and intellectual life in the United States.”  









 

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In These Times
 
Bureaucratic crooks and market-wrangling fat cats, beware. You’re under surveillance by the unblinking (and unsympathetic) eye of In These Times. A tireless champion of the oppressed, forgotten, and ignored, the progressive magazine combines meticulous reporting, fierce cultural criticism, rock star writers, and staunch independence.  







 

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Mother Jones
 
Since 1976, the folks behind the investigative nonprofit Mother Jones have relentlessly and reliably delivered “smart, fearless journalism,” transcending the day’s political spin to unearth stories on everything from global climate change to torturous foreign policy decisions on both sides of the aisle.  







 

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The American Conservative
 
The American Conservative was founded in 2002 as a counterweight to the neocon fervor of the George W. Bush presidency, espousing what it calls “traditional conservatism.” Opening it is like a trip to a parallel universe where right-leaning thinkers can be against war, imperialism, and civil liberties abuses, even while espousing many tenets of social and fiscal conservatism.   






 

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The American Prospect
 
The American Prospect reports on the day’s most essential issues, from immigration to workers’ rights, privacy to prison reform. By combining thorough reportage with deep analysis, it provides progressives with the intellectual and inspirational tools to engage in transformative politics and policy.  







 

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The Nation
 
A vital progressive voice for nearly 150 years, The Nation weighs in weekly on politics, arts, and culture via vivid features, incisive reviews, and convention-busting commentary. By bucking the trend toward the slick and the glossy, The Nation helps to keep politics real.  







 

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The New Republic
 
The influential, debate-fueling biweekly The New Republic chooses tough critical thinking over easy dogma, encouraging its writers (and readers) to be critical not just of their right-wing foes but also their fellow liberals. In a political landscape full of bluster, TNR’s cool rigor holds sway.  







 

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The Progressive
 
The Progressive is more than 100 years old, but this bastion of the liberal press is full of fresh energy and up-to-the-minute currency. Publishing analysis and reporting from leading thinkers, it never loses sight of the people behind the issues it covers.







 

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SOCIAL/CULTURAL COVERAGE  

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Bitch
 
The only print magazine dedicated to feminist critiques of pop culture, the exuberant, indestructible Bitch enlists dauntless writers to carry out its mission by combining serious study and a healthy sense of humor. The Portland-based quarterly also showcases indie art, music, film, and literature.  







 

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Brain, Child
 
Brain, Child invites “thinking mothers” to share everything—the joys of parenting, the sorrows, the hiccups—in each exquisitely written, sharply edited issue. There’s no sugarcoating here, but neither is there complaining: just reflection and wisdom to spare.  







 

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Gastronomica
 
Gastronomica is a magazine about food, but it brings much more to the table—from scholarship on cuisine-related culture, history, and literature to provocative visual imagery. Like the best kind of dinner partner, the magazine is sophisticated and charming, a skilled conversationalist, and always introduces us to something new on the menu.  







 

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Good
 
The editors at Good bring a fresh eye to a diverse range of weighty subjects—like the rebirth of New Orleans, the reinvention of our neighborhoods, and the renewal of a meaningful workplace—and wrap them all up in a snappy package. Serving a progressive community motivated to move the world forward, this magazine is beyond good.  







 

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Make/shift
 
Make/shift’s tagline is “feminisms in motion,” and they whip through the pages of this biannual like an intellectual storm. Each issue hosts bold, one-of-a-kind arguments and creates a lively community of writers, artists, and activists who stretch the boundaries of gender politics.  







 

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Mental_Floss
 
The editors at Mental_Floss amaze, astonish, and educate with the quirkiest of topics and attention-grabbing headlines to make The Onion envious. (Our favorites: “How Lasers Can Protect You from Pirates” and “Amish Baseball: The Greatest American Pastime”) Masters at the art of magazine making, the irreverent but ever intelligent editors always give us something to talk about.  






 

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Oregon Humanities
 
Striving to change lives and transform communities, Oregon Humanities gives us blissfully clear, thoughtful reportage on the things that make us human, including history (ancient and contemporary), literature and language, ethics and philosophy, and various cultural, religious, and folk traditions. No matter its subject, the insightful quarterly challenges us to reconsider the day’s most vital issues.  






 

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This Magazine
 
Some of the things This Magazine was about in 2010: bamboo, Iraqi cartoonists, the Black Panthers, and pirate snobs. With those topics and cover stories ranging from Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan to voting reform, This Magazine finds a way to cover a vast swath of territory intelligently and accessibly.







 

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INTERNATIONAL COVERAGE  

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NACLA Report on the Americas
 
NACLA Report on the Americas covers Latin American people and politics with a depth, nuance, and historical context rarely found in mainstream media coverage of the region. From elections to revolutions, this bimonthly is on the front lines.  







 

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New Internationalist
 
New Internationalist weighs the world on the scales of justice. By tapping into a vast global network of activists, the compassionately written and tightly edited magazine breathes life into the stories of people who are working to build a better planet.  








 

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New Statesman
 
New Statesman is an essential touchstone for anybody seeking an international perspective on current events. The British weekly allows American readers not only to look out beyond their borders, but also to envision standing outside those borders.  








 

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Prospect
 
On the pages of Britain’s Prospect, witty screeds sit beside far-flung travel writing, fresh fiction beside wonky policy analysis, knowledgeable criticism beside provocative political essays. Most crucially, complex issues of the day receive ample space and a nuanced treatment.  








 

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Red Pepper
  
Red Pepper deepens its readers’ understanding of Europe and developing countries, where local politics have global consequences. Whether on the beat of economic protest in Warsaw, agricultural reform in Brasília, or the rise of Scottish socialism, the magazine’s activist reporters get fists pumping and crowds chanting for justice.  








 

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The Wilson Quarterly
 
There’s no room for sensational headlines or ideological bombast on the densely packed pages of The Wilson Quarterly. There are too many new ideas and essential issues to cover, from China’s economic future to Israel’s inner life. And the peerless editors ensure that the prose is as tight as the analysis.  








 

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World Affairs
 
“A journal of ideas and debate,” World Affairs, founded in 1837, burrows beneath the headlines to lend a historical perspective and an open mind to those international issues that promise to dictate our political, cultural, and economic future. The answers aren’t easy, but the questions demand forward motion.   








 

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Z Magazine
 
Z Magazine’s rage is as righteous as it mission. Examining the United States’ behavior around the globe through the lens of race, gender, and class, the monthly’s radical rabble-rousers refuse to take refuge in easy slogans or dusty dogma. And no one person or ideology escapes scrutiny.  








 

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ARTS COVERAGE  

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American Craft
 
A celebration of handmade objects and the people who create them, American Craft brings to life the work of glassblowers, woodworkers, jewelry makers, and artisans of all stripes. Published by the American Craft Council, it covers its inspiring subjects from workbench to gallery. 







 

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Film Comment
 
Forget box-office battles and vapid celebrity chatter: Film Comment focuses its lens on cinema’s substance. Drawing on a deep, experienced pool of critics and feature writers, the magazine gets off the red carpet to explore the wonderfully diverse film omniverse.  







 

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Offbeat
 
Even after surviving Katrina and suffering BP’s incompetence, New Orleans is still as under-covered as its native musicians are unknown. Offbeat, a free fanzine turned nationally distributed glossy, solves both problems by writing intimate, intelligent stories about Louisiana’s music, food, and culture.   







 

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Oxford American
 
Steeped in the South but continually redefining just what that means, the Oxford American is a literary exploration of life and culture below the Mason-Dixon line. Calling itself “the Southern magazine of good writing,” its pages have encompassed topics ranging from “the wide world of eating dirt” to “gun-lovin’ environmentalists.”  







 

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Public Art Review
 
The world of public art now ranges far beyond the familiar large-scale outdoor sculpture to street art, land art, and myriad other forms. Public Art Review nimbly covers this shifting terrain with rigor and verve, enhancing the critical conversation and drawing crucial connections.  








 

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Theme
 
With its Asian roots and a global consciousness, Theme is driven by—and inevitably instills—a zest for fresh looks, sounds, and ideas. Each issue of this sleek quarterly features a guest curator and a thematic thread that writers, photographers, and designers then explore via features, interviews, and lush visual spreads.  







 

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Vintage Magazine
 
Cracking the oversized cover of Vintage Magazine opens a window on a bygone world, one where nostalgia and artistry trump bland commercialism and immediacy. Various weights of paper, a thread-stitched binding, throwback design, and pop-out articles prove that a biannual journal covering antique arts and handcrafting can be tactile as well as visual.  








 

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Wax Poetics
 
A labor of love, the Brooklyn-based Wax Poetics is a geeked-out fanzine dedicated to unearthing the grittiest funk, coolest jazz, and smoothest soul ever pressed into a groove. The writers proselytize, the editors keep the mix fresh, and the archival album art and concert footage is beatific.  









 

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ENVIRONMENTAL COVERAGE  

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Audubon
 
Audubon rightly believes that if you care about birds, you care about the environment. The Audubon Society’s magazine is a must-read for nature watchers of all kinds, digging into its subjects with a keen eye for both natural beauty and the forces that threaten it. 







 

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Conservation
 
Published by the Society for Conservation Biology, Conservation transcends its modest roots with intellectual depth. From exploring “the dark side of green consumerism” to asking, “Can we feed ourselves without destroying the planet?” it gets to the environmental stories that demand our attention.  






 

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Earth Island Journal
 
A publication of the Earth Island Institute, the group founded by activist legend David Brower, Earth Island Journal reports from the front lines of the environmental crisis. Its global focus and eagerness for stimulating debate make it a must-read for greens.  







 

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Environment
 
The footnotes in Environment magazine say “academics at work”—but the stories will have you asking, “Why isn’t anyone else writing about this?” This publication covering “science and policy for sustainable development” goes in-depth but never gets out of reach.   







 

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Environment Yale
 
Environment Yale covers myriad stories from the front lines of environmentalism, whether it’s the U.S. military’s use of forestry as a counterinsurgency tool or “urban ecology” that puts teens to work greening their cities. Published by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, the biannual provokes readers to change the way they think about the natural world.  






 

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High Country News
 
The Western United States is a key battleground for many environmental issues, and High Country News is your experienced and knowledgeable correspondent from the front lines. Its watchdog coverage of mining, ranching, logging—and simply Western life—is unmatched. 






 

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OnEarth
 
The quarterly journal of the Natural Resources Defense Council, OnEarth monitors what’s happening to our land, air, water, and wildlife. It’s a pretty nature magazine, but it also brings a keenly analytic eye to the societal and political dimensions of environmentalism.  







 

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Orion
 
The most literary of environmental magazines, Orion takes a big view, touching on spirituality, philosophy, and the arts in its gorgeous pages. Thoughtfully provocative columnists keep it from drifting off into the rapidly warming atmosphere.







 

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BODY/SPIRIT COVERAGE  

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The Christian Century
 
First published in 1884 as the Christian Oracle, The Christian Century epitomizes what it means to think critically and live faithfully, asking readers to turn a thoughtful eye toward world hunger, immigration, AIDS work, health-care reform, and other issues of great import to all of us—whatever our faith.  







 

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Commonweal
 
Progressive Christianity has come to and gone from American life in the 86 years Commonweal has been giving voice to it. From its pacifist declarations during World War II to the battles over sexual orientation in our time, Commonweal has been a beacon.  








 

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Geez
 
“Holy mischief in an age of fast faith” is the mission of the radical, left-leaning Christian journal Geez. In every issue, its creators offer up a collage of irreverent stories on everything from awkwardness to “experiments with truth.”  






 

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Resurgence
 
Resurgence has made an art of pushing its writers to the uncomfortable edges of environmentalism and spirituality, covering stories ranging from “the tyranny of trends” to farmer suicides in India. Beautifully designed and richly sourced, this British magazine is as unique as it is essential.   








 

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Sojourners
 
Faith and politics are often deranged bedfellows. In the pages of Sojourners, the relationship is treated as a sacred one. In this institution of progressive Christianity, the left’s orthodoxies are rarely questioned—but rather are infused with the searching qualities of a living, breathing faith.  








 

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Tikkun
 
Illuminated by the Jewish faith but accessible to all, Tikkun aims to “mend, repair and transform the world,” and that dream may just start with its readers. We are inspired by its measured, heavy-hitting features, which feature everything from queer spirituality to godless environmentalism to mental health, celebrity culture, and corporate greed.  







 

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Tricycle
 
Magazines that celebrate Buddhism sometimes feel redundant. Too few gurus cycle through too frequently. Tricycle searches out obscure and marginalized voices to reach beyond the mainstream, finding wisdom that turns faith into a lifelong journey.  







 

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YES! Magazine
 
YES! Magazine, a magazine of “powerful ideas, practical actions” published by the nonprofit Positive Futures Network, gives us information and tools to build a more sustainable, just tomorrow. Readers cannot help but be inspired by the quarterly’s celebration of human potential and community well being.







 

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SCIENCE/TECHNOLOGY COVERAGE  

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Alternatives Journal
 
American environmentalists would be wise to look to Canada’s Alternatives Journal for cogent, well-informed reporting and commentary on green issues. The official publication of the Environmental Studies Association of Canada puts topics from climate change to local food into perspective.  







 

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Discover
 
Writing about science for a broad audience is a challenge—one that Discover rises to each time it puts out a fact-packed issue. The magazine delves into scientific discoveries, personalities, and debates, turning biology, chemistry, physics and other disciplines into compelling stories that illuminate as they entertain.  







 

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IEEE Spectrum
 
Engineers are responsible for some of the most exciting innovations in modern science. IEEE Spectrum, the official magazine of the Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers, translates the advances in computers and robotics into a language that geeks can love and anyone can understand.  







 

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Johns Hopkins Public Health
 
We wish more reporters would go to Johns Hopkins Public Health for story ideas and analysis instead of relying on oversimplified press releases. The biannual publication brings a global perspective to everything from malaria and AIDS research to sleep disorders and innovations in eyewear.  







 

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Make
 
Only one magazine would teach readers how to make a steam pump electrostatic generator and a letterpress-printing machine in the same issue. Make magazine takes science away from the scientists and puts technology in the hands of garage innovators and do-it-yourself enthusiasts.  








 

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Miller-McCune
 
In a world besieged by a seemingly endless list of baffling challenges, Miller-McCune is a smart, clear-eyed tonic. The monthly’s editors seek out cutting-edge research to demystify the day’s most pressing issues and highlight institutions and innovators that provide reason for hope.  







 

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Science News
 
Science News is inexhaustible. Every two weeks it surveys groundbreaking research in a variety of disciplines to deliver in-depth, inviting stories. Want to know a lot more about archaeology? A little something about superstring theory? This is your go-to guide.







 

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Technology Review
 
Technology Review does much more than review the day’s coolest gadgets and mind-blowing scientific innovations. MIT’s magazine gets into the cultural and political implications of those innovations to help experts and casual readers better understand how new technology will change the wider world.







 





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