3/22/2013 11:05:53 AM
2013 marks a new chapter in the 24-year history of the Utne Reader staff recognizing and celebrating the best of what we read. Formerly called the Utne Independent Press Awards, we’ve decided to contemporize the name and call them the Utne Media Awards.
Considering the wealth of amazing new ideas, exceptional writing, and outstanding journalism taking place on the internet, we think it’s time the name of the award encompass every form of mass communication we come across each day from longform print journalism to video blogs. While we still love and will always celebrate the printed word, we’d be remiss not to recognize the democratization of information made possible by the internet. We think emphasizing the broad term “media” allows us to appropriately consider and recognize all of the ways people communicate with one another in the 21st century.
Of course, the best way to make that point is to simply refer you to the list of 36 nominees for the 2013 award, most of which have been featured in the pages of Utne Reader in one way or another over the last year. As has always been the case with this award, the selection process is arduous and sometimes even a bit contentious, but only because the staff wishes we could find a way to recognize every one of our favorites.
The winners in each category will be announced at the Magazine Publishers of America’s Independent Magazine Media Conference in New Orleans in May and published in our July/August 2013 issue. To all the publications and websites nominated, congratulations on yet another year of inspirational work. So without further delay, here are the nominees:
1/24/2013 12:05:01 PM
This story originally appeared at WagingNonviolence.org.
are central to our existential job description: making sense of both the world
and ourselves. From creation myths to scientific explanations, from political
ideologies to the quirky narratives that knead our own amorphous lives into
some kind of distinctive shape, stories are essential — not only because they
nudge the disconnected bits of reality we face moment to moment into a
plausible and graspable form, but because they go to the heart of our identity
goes for navigating our lives. But it also goes for changing the world.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. says that life poses two fundamental questions —What
are we willing to live for? What are we willing to die for? — he presupposes
a story that makes these questions intelligible. For Dr. King, this story
centered on a harrowing and improbable expedition to what he doggedly called
the Beloved Community, a world where all human beings will one day sit at the
same table, live together in The World House, and make good on the hunch that
the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice. This story does not come
with a warranty or scientific proof. Instead its truthfulness depends on how
far we’re willing to go to embellish and inhabit it. This story’s power flows,
not from its lyrical metaphors, but from its ongoing, risky embodiment.
The monumental challenges we face
today — poverty and economic inequality, climate change, military intervention
and surveillance, unjust immigration policies, handgun violence, white
privilege and many others — resist transformation for many reasons, including
the stubbornly enduring frames that keep them in place. The monumental change
we need will hinge on a new way of looking at the world, and this in turn will
be spurred on by powerful stories that bring that new worldview alive.
draws life from the endless stories that push its power. But things can work
the other way too. Stories of the nonviolent option can unexpectedly seep into
our right brain, disturb the certitude of the violence operating system, and
open breathing space. We are living in a time when, despite the tsunami of
violence, we are hearing these counter-narratives more frequently. Part of the
reason for this is that there is more nonviolent action than ever. But another
is that we are on the lookout for these stories more than ever. When we put on
the nonviolence eyewear and start poking around — as this site does — we start
to see the power of nonviolent change everywhere.
of our most powerful alternative storytellers is Terry Messman. Messman is the
editor of Street Spirit, a
monthly newspaper published by the American Friends Service Committee that is
sold by 100 homeless vendors on the streets of Oakland, Calif. Reporting from
“the shelters, back alleys, soup kitchen lines and slum hotels where mainstream
reporters rarely or never visit,” the newspaper runs stories on homelessness,
poverty, economic inequality and the daily grind of human rights violations
that poor people face. But Street Spirit doesn’t simply deliver the grim
news of poverty. It also chronicles and raises the visibility of the movement
that is dramatically working for human and civil rights, challenging
inequality, and demanding — and winning — change. This month’s issue, for example, features stories
on the challenges and successes of the local anti-foreclosure
movement, a campaign countering the erosion of the human
rights of homeless people and on affordable
housing for the growing senior population. Month after month for the last
17 years Street Spirit has been getting the story out on the reality of
the structural violence and consequences of poverty, but also on campaigns that
are challenging this reality.
Street Spirit has highlighted the tools of powerful and audacious
nonviolent movement-building, with extensive coverage of the Occupy movement
and interviews with Erica
Chenoweth (on the ground-breaking research that she and Maria Stephan
published in their book, Why Civil Resistance Works demonstrating that
nonviolent strategies are twice as likely to succeed than violent ones) and
with nonviolent action campaigner and scholar George
Lakey. Last month the newspaper profiled the Positive
Peace Warrior Network and one of its key trainers, Kazu
Haga, who was trained by Bernard Lafayette and is organizing a growing
community of activists grounded in Kingian nonviolence. (Haga’s essay, “MLK’s
final marching orders,” was published this week by Waging Nonviolence.)
documenting injustice and building the capacity of the movement for justice, Street
Spirit not only spurs nonviolent action but also has become a form of
action itself. Its reporting was instrumental in shutting
down the East Bay
Hospital in Richmond, Calif.,
which was a dumping ground for homeless, poor and severely disabled people by
nine counties in the region and was responsible for widespread violations of
low-income psychiatric patients.
Messman has long integrated telling the story of nonviolent action with action
itself. In the late 1970s he was a reporter in Montana sent out to cover a civil
disobedience action at a U.S. Air Force base. A lone Lutheran minister had
crossed the line at the base and was sitting in the driveway, awaiting arrest.
Messman was so moved by this solitary witness that he dropped his reporter’s
notebook and sat down next to him. He netted six months in federal prison for
long after this I met Terry. He was leading nonviolence training at the
Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley,
where both of us were then studying. He and several other workshop facilitators
were preparing a group to risk arrest at Lawrence Livermore National
Laboratory, a nearby facility that had designed 50 percent of the U.S. nuclear
arsenal. I was immediately struck by his vision of the power of nonviolence,
especially his stress on it being active, audacious, challenging and dramatic.
Struck by the picture he painted that morning, I shook off my hesitations about
engaging in civil disobedience and took part in the action at the lab, which
netted 30 of us a week in the county jail. For the next two years I essentially
put my studies on the shelf and took action with Terry and the action group he
had helped form named “Spirit Affinity Group” and, in effect, enrolled in
Nonviolence 101 with Terry as teacher. Terry vividly and actively shared with
me, and others, the story of nonviolent change, rooted in the vision of Gandhi,
Dr. King, Dorothy Day and a rebellious, law-breaking Jesus, whom the theologian
and activist John Dear would later characterize as a “one-person crime wave.”
But Terry’s story of the power of nonviolent transformation was rooted not only
in studying history but also in a series of actions he had taken throughout the
western United States.
This story — reinforced by the string of nonviolent actions that we organized
and participated in together — was gradually changing me.
years of anti-nuclear activism, Terry brought this spirit to his work
challenging poverty and homelessness in Oakland
in the late 1980s. He and others formed the Union of the Homeless that launched
an action campaign that included occupying — and winning — an unused federal
building and occupying a series of homes that the U.S. Department of Housing
and Urban Development had repossessed and was essentially turning over to real
estate speculators. They won these homes for poor and homeless families,
including a house that Terry and members of the movement (including myself)
occupied overnight one time. (I will never forget a large Oakland police officer at 4 a.m. kicking open
the room I was sleeping in and dragging me off with the others to jail.)
it all, Terry was telling the story. Two decades ago I interviewed Terry and
his colleagues about their campaign, which by then had mobilized government
support to build housing, a childcare center with a Head Start program and a
multi-service center supporting homeless people, all run by a nonprofit
organization whose board was predominantly homeless people. In one of the
interviews Terry said, “We did a four-year series of nonviolent direct actions.
And all we did in the early years was say, ‘We’re going to go to jail for two
or three years, and then we’re going to have housing.’ Which was a totally
magical prescription that we just said… And it was really something, that power
of belief. We just kept saying that all over the community.”
story — this magical prescription — was key to driving the dramatic actions
that created change. Now, all these years later, Terry is still at it as he
continues to call out the myriad of ways homeless people are dehumanized and
excluded, but also continues to report in a detailed and thoughtful way the
stories of the movement that is challenging this dehumanization and exclusion.
While Street Spirit is Oakland-based, all of us everywhere can all draw
new life every month from this
powerful platform that’s getting the story out for justice and nonviolent
11/15/2012 3:56:11 PM
Editor’s note: After
30 years of publishing Orion, founder M.G.H. Gilliam announced in the
November/December issue that he would be leaving the magazine. What follows is
his final publisher’s note, in which he assesses the challenges we face with
With this issue of Orion
I will be stepping down as publisher and turning over to others the work I
started thirty years ago. My hope from the beginning was for a publication that
celebrated the wisdom and beauty of the natural world in the belief that
humanity will respect and protect that which it comes to know and love—a
publication in which both the literary and visual arts would communicate the
conviction that humans are responsible for the world in which we live and that
the individual comes to sense this responsibility as he or she develops a
personal bond with nature.
Since the inaugural issue, Orion has sought to explore how to achieve harmony between nature,
which sustains and supports all life on earth, and our civil institutions,
which provide governance and justice, goods and services, and address
humanity’s physical needs and desires. Orion
has also aimed to reflect on the qualitative values that nurture the soul and
strengthen our will, while highlighting the growing understanding of the
quantitative limits to resource extraction and untenable pollution. Both these
approaches are essential if we are to form an ethical framework within which
our existence on this planet may be sustained.
Much has changed in the three decades since the magazine was
launched, and the matters with which Orion’s
early authors grappled appear humble when compared to the urgent challenges
humanity faces today. Climate change, the population crisis, and the extreme
methods of extracting the earth’s remaining resources dwarf the environmental
issues that Orion addressed in 1982.
Perhaps most alarming of all is a political and corporate culture the seems
less and less interested in understanding the truth of what is happening in the
world, and less and less inclined to demand sane policy. At the same time, I
take heart in the groundswell of activism and activist groups that have emerged
during those same three decades and that do so much good work.
The problems caused by rampant consumerism, the acceptance
of short-term fixes, and self-serving behavior with little or no willingness to
make sacrifices are still the primary challenges, in my view, that face
society. We need a way of exploring environmental issues that is realistic and
honest, yet hopeful and inspirational. This will require an increasing attempt
to learn from nature: what will nature permit us to do before it is likely to
destroy us? If the primary role of government is to protect the rights of
individuals and defend the nation, we must figure out how to disconnect money’s
influence on the election of government officials and on the legislative
process. If the role of business is to provide goods and services, how do we
encourage its leaders and shareholders to take the focus off bottom-line
profits and to encourage sustainability rather than heedless consumption? And
if culture’s role is to be an arbiter capable of creating balance between the
governmental and economic areas of activity, how do we foster a culture that is
based on moral and spiritual values that will demand equitable treatment for
all living creatures?
It is my hope—and belief—that Orion inspires its readers to strive for a vision of life on earth
that is just, and that the magazine, in its small way, makes the world a kinder
place. I thank you, dear friends, writers, and artists, and all the members,
past and present, of my Orion team
for the honor of being a part of this special constellation.
—M.G.H. Gilliam, publisher and
founder of Orion and The Orion
Image: Johannes Hevelius, Prodromus Astronomia, volume III: Firmamentum Sobiescianum, sive Uranographia, table QQ: Orion, 1690. This image is in the public domain.
10/31/2012 4:03:51 PM
A school lunch in Argyll, Scotland. Martha Payne, a nine-year old student there, started taking pictures of and blogging about her food in April of 2012.
This post first appeared at Solutions Online and is licensed under Creative Commons.
When nine-year old Martha Payne began a food blog last year,
chronicling the paucity of her school lunches, she was not prepared to
become a social media star. Payne’s blog, entitled “NeverSeconds,”
began as an innocuous school project that showed pictures of her
cafeteria meals in Argyll, Scotland, along with a “Food-o-meter” rating their healthiness on a
scale of 10. Suffice it to say, not many got close to 10. The school
was initially supportive of Payne, an aspiring journalist whose dad
helped her construct the website. Within a week, however, NeverSeconds,
was being posted on social networking sites and receiving 100,000
visitors a day, earning her a congratulatory tweet from celebrity chef
Jamie Oliver. National media was soon running headlines like “Time to
fire the dinner ladies,” with Payne and her school identified.
A few weeks after the blog started, Payne was ushered into the head
teacher’s office and told she could not take any more photos of school
dinners. It transpired that Payne’s local council, Argyll and Bute, had
reacted to the adverse publicity by imposing a ban. As ever, the
cover-up proved to be worse than the crime. The council’s censorship
provoked an even greater backlash. Two hours later, a shamed council
leader, Roddy McCuish, appeared on national radio to announce the
immediate reversal of the ban.
"There's no place for censorship in Argyll and Bute council and
there never has been and there never will be,” told McCuish on BBC Radio
"I've just instructed senior officials to immediately withdraw the
ban on pictures from the school dining hall. It's a good thing to do, to
change your mind, and I've certainly done that."
Let’s hope that contrition extends to improving the school meals in
his schools. In the meantime, Payne has raised enough money, through her
charity, Mary’s Meals, to build a new kitchen at a school in Malawi. Her blog continues at NeverSeconds.
3/6/2012 10:48:21 AM
The practical and moral implications of erecting a paywall are not easy to untangle. So it’s no surprise that even the big important sources like the New York Times have gone back and forth. Back in September 2007, NYT announced that its entire print edition would be available online free of charge. The risky move made a big splash in the world of online news as other less profitable papers weighed the benefits and costs of following suit.
Like a lot of news junkies, I was delighted by the decision. In fact, the idea of paying for information seemed a little absurd to me at the time. As a student at the University of Minnesota, I had complete access to databases like JSTOR and LexisNexis. I relied on the fact that if I needed a book that Wilson Library or Andersen Library didn’t have, I could order it free of charge through Inter-Library Loan. And a surprising number of assigned readings had the familiar Modern History Sourcebook URL—a huge online database of primary history—free to all.
That the New York Timeswas also free to online users made perfect sense. The Internet offered free access to dictionaries and encyclopedias—why not newspapers? Why should information and news be reduced to a buyable, sellable product? What did subscription charges and advertising revenue have to do with reporting the news anyway?
Of course, the answer is quite a lot, especially to an industry in crisis. What’s more, it seems the free content party may be coming to an end. Last week, the Los Angeles Timesannounced that it was erecting a paywall for its online edition, thereby joining the litany of other sources like the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, and the dozens of local papers owned by Gannett that have already done so. Similarly, broadcasters plan to stream NCAA March Madness tournaments and analysis behind a paywall of their own.
The NYT window itself lasted just over three years. Last year—amidst critical reporting from the Arab Spring, no less—the paper announced the return of its pesky paywall, and that was the beginning of the end. But if smaller publications breathed a sigh of relief, the respite probably didn’t last.
For a struggling paper or magazine, the less consumers expect to get free content, the better. Newspapers have been hemorrhaging revenue since the late nineties, and it’s difficult to see how a traditional business model can respond to online content. But at the same time, many have become dependent on the very media that so threaten their existence.
Take bloggers. As Kevin Drum argues in Mother Jones, bloggers, like himself, rely on an enormous pool of free online content to glean and contextualize information. It’s a role created by a media landscape that couldn’t possibly be replicated any other way. But it’s also a role that many newspapers and print magazines have embraced, and now may need to preserve.
Even more traditional journalistic tasks are beholden to the Internet. When I was an intern at In These Times back in 2010, we relied on free online content for fact-checking. That academic journals, government databases, and newspapers were digitally at our fingertips made checking accuracy much more efficient and organized. And while In These Times and countless other publications certainly conducted fact-checking before the Internet came around, many of them also had larger staffs then—even whole fact-checking positions. Today, smaller staffs and fewer resources mean efficiency is at a premium, which again makes online all the more essential.
Similarly, the Internet’s rise has enabled and perhaps compelled the explosion in freelance and contract labor in journalism and publishing (not to mention those tricky unpaid internships). And now, proofing, copyediting, and fact-checking are even being outsourced from struggling newsrooms to foreign countries, reports Megan Tady of FAIR Extra.
“A new era of journalism is certainly upon us, where a newspaper simply can’t be successful without an online presence,” she writes. “Many journalists like to think that they’re irreplaceable, while media companies are beginning to think that they’re outsourceable.” In more ways than one, the rise of the Internet is responsible for this crisis, but ironically, the Internet is also necessary for the freelance editing and outsourcing that a lot of papers rely on to stay alive.
And of course, it wasn’t always about survival. The costs of doing business in the new era are wreaking havoc on what used to be essential for good journalism, writes former Inquirer reporter Chris Satullo. “Your real worry should not be whether newspapers survive,” he argues. “What you should worry about is the future of newsrooms, those buzzing, resourceful dens of collaboration that make everyone who works in them better than they could be alone.”
Newspapers and magazines do have choices, but not many. If more of the big names rebuild their paywalls it may take some of the pressure off smaller and more local publications to provide free content. The alternatives—relying on unpaid labor, scattering newsrooms across the country and overseas, dumping foreign correspondents and bureaus—are not pleasant. The trouble is no one wants to be first to take the plunge. When the London Times imposed a paywall in 2010, they lost ninety percent of their online readership in less than three weeks, apparently proving the theory that online users will simply go somewhere else to avoid paying.
But so far, the New York Times’ model has fared much better (even as some readers beat the system), and this is good news for smaller sources. If consumers can get over their abrasion to paying for news, and if news sources can get over their fear of asking for it, the Internet may be a far less threatening place for journalism.
Sources: New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Gannett, All Things Digital, Mother Jones, FAIR Extra, Newsworks, PBS, American Journalism Review, The Guardian, Columbia Journalism Review, Wired.
Image by SusanLesch, licensed under Creative Commons.
12/23/2011 1:41:03 PM
We at Utne Reader sift through 1,500 periodicals, skim hundreds of websites and blogs, and clamber over a mountain of new books to present the best the alternative press has to offer. Unfortunately, the magazine we deliver is only about 100 pages long, so we can’t reprint all of the fresh ideas, deeply-reported journalism, and vivid portraits that we read. Thus, we blog. The following five blogs were your favorites from 2011.
5) “A New Peace Symbol” by David Schimke
Sometimes, short blog posts are the best. That was the case with Editor-in-Chief David Schimke’s hat-tip to the new international symbol for human rights. An excerpt:
“Free as a Man,” created by Serbian artist Predrag Stakic, is the winner of an online competition conducted by the Human Rights Logo Initiative, which is on a mission to make the design an internationally recognized symbol for human rights.
4) “Organic v. Monsanto” by Danielle Magnuson
How many organic farmers does it take to fight against the biggest food corporation on the planet? Turns out, about 270,000. Associate editor Danielle Magnuson reported on the legal suit filed by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association that aims to take sustainable farming back into the hands of the those that work the land. An excerpt:
[W]ith patented seeds infiltrating the environment so fully, organic itself is at risk. Monsanto’s widely used Genuity® Roundup Ready® canola seed has already turned heirloom canola oil into an extinct species. The suing farmers are seeking to prevent similar contamination of organic corn, soybeans, and a host of other crops. What’s more, they’re seeking to prevent Monsanto from accusing them of unlawfully using the very seeds they’re trying to avoid.
3) “The Meditation Makeover: Before and After” by Margret Aldrich
Could you pick out someone who just meditated if they passed you on the street? You’d want to look for a calm countenance, wide eyes, and an absence of tension. Although contentious, the images from the “Before and After” project seem to speak for themselves.
2) “Militarized to its Bones” by Tom Engelhardt, from TomDispatch
Our small staff covered the Occupy Wall Street movement to the best of our ability from 1,000 miles away. Sometimes, though, we needed to rely on the perspective of writers a little closer to the action. Outspoken and adversarial progressive Tom Engelhardt was reporting on the ground through OWS’s growing pains. An excerpt:
On a recent visit to the park, I found the streets around the Stock Exchange barricaded and blocked off to traffic, and police everywhere in every form (in and out of uniform)—on foot, on scooters, on motorcycles, in squad cars with lights flashing, on horses, in paddy wagons or minivans, you name it. At the park’s edge, there is a police observation tower capable of being raised and lowered hydraulically and literally hundreds of police are stationed in the vicinity. I counted more than 50 of them on just one of its sides at a moment when next to nothing was going on—and many more can be seen almost anywhere in the Wall Street area, lolling in doorways, idling in the subway, ambling on the plazas of banks, and chatting in the middle of traffic-less streets.
1) “‘Cows Eat Grass’ and Other Inflammatory Statements” by Keith Goetzman
This was a slow-burning blog, as senior editor Keith Goetzman actually wrote it in 2010. But the story of the agriculture expert whose seemingly-simple statement that “cows eat grass” did more than chronicle an unbelievable hubbub in Iowa—it exposed the depth of Big Ag’s entrenchment. An excerpt:
If this were a TV game show, a loud buzzer would have gone off and Mr. Salvador would have been escorted from the stage that very moment. Because apparently he was supposed to say that cows should eat corn. Even if that’s not natural or sustainable, it’s simply how things are done in Iowa, a state built on big agriculture.
11/16/2011 12:21:08 PM
Some of the best stuff from the Twitter feeds we follow...
The Nation (@
Robert Reich eviscerates the Supercommittee's skewed priorities, draws a cartoon.
See more at The Nation
Mother Jones (@
Chart of the Day: How Not to Create Jobs mojo.ly/vy6C5e
Chuck Marr of CBPP notes that the CBO recently studied a laundry list of job creation proposals and concluded that higher unemployment benefits had the biggest bang for the buck. "That’s not surprising," he says, "given that jobless people are severely cash constrained and would quickly spend most of any incremental increase in cash and that, in turn, would lead to higher demand and job creation."
But which proposal came in last?
See Kevin Drum’s Chart of the Day at MoJo
The American Prospect (@
Despite what you've heard from many pundits, Mitt Romney isn't the kid who gets picked last in gym class. ampro.me/u6m2We
Mitt Romney is just as popular as Herman Cain or Newt Gingrich, his problem—in part—is that he has too many competitors, and Republican voters are indulging the extent to which they have a fair amount of choice. When the field begins to winnow in January, odds are very good that Romney will pick up a lot more support from Republican voters.
Read more about a Gallup poll about the Republican presidential candidates at The American Prospect
In These Times (@
Library in the slammer, roughed up. Librarians surveying the damage. bit.ly/sxUK22 @melissagira livetweeting from the garage.
OWS librarians attempted to reclaim their collection and found it decimated, according to the Maddow Blog. The librarians told Maddow that they only found 25 boxes of books in storage, many of which were damaged or desroyed. Laptop computers were recovered, damanged beyond repair.
Read more at In These Times
Bill McKibben (@billmckibben)
If you want to see someone looking nervous on Colbert, tonite is your big chance
Oxford American (@
Musician Chris Isaak likes Oxford American
“I was reading the ‘Oxford American,’ a great, great music magazine,” he said. “It’s like getting four years of ‘Rolling Stone’ all in the same magazine.”
Read the rest of the article about Chris Isaak in The Kansas City Star
Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.
Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!
Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $6 and get 6 issues of Utne Reader for only $29.95 (USA only).
Or Bill Me Later and pay just $36 for 6 issues of Utne Reader!