For 9 years Utne Reader has recognized excellence in alternative and independent magazine publishing through its Alternative Press Awards. The Awards are a distinction made by our staff to celebrate the seldom recognized efforts of the alternative press, and as a service to our readers who want to know about alternatives to mass media magazine publishing. These awards honor individual publications that especially impressed our editorial staff during the previous year.
The awards are not the result of a competition; they emerge from the extensive reading our staff does as part of the process of producing Utne Reader. Our editors read many hundreds of alternative and independent titles looking for articles and ideas that are interesting, timely, well-written, and thought-provoking.
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GENERAL EXCELLENCE (15,000 and over circulation)
DoubleTake, Durham, NC.
Editors: Robert Coles and Alex Harris
DoubleTake generously offers gifted writers and photographers room to stretch out, the chance to tell the stories that really matter to them–and to us. Photos and text don’t drown each other out here, thanks to an elegant, low-key design and the sheer talent of contributors in both arenas. They take us to scarred battlefields left behind by the Vietnam War and sunny afternoons at a public campground on Long Island. Documenting the breadth of human experience in word and image, DoubleTake evokes life as it really is and gives a glimpse, in its quiet way, of how it might be different.
GENERAL EXCELLENCE (under 15,000 circulation)
Adbusters, Vancouver, BC
Editor: Kalle Lasn
Who would guess that a quarterly magazine of media criticism could be so entertaining? Brilliant spoofs of well-known advertisements (‘Is there a GAP in your life?’), clever illustrations, and a lighthearted touch to the writing make Adbusters fun with a capital F. But the editors are after more than laughs; they want readers to get mad about corporate disinformation, the advertising world’s invasion of our schools, injustices in the global economy, and any industry that exists to nourish profit margins at the expense of our souls. Adbusters challenges us to examine the part we play in an out-of-control economic system.
BEST NEW TITLE
Hope, Brooklin, ME.
Editor: Jon Wilson
According to most of the media, good news is no news.isn?t fit to print (or broadcast). But Hope magazine sees things differently, showing us a another compelling side of contemporary life that rarely gets covered. Whether it’s telling the story of three young women who gave up their babies for ‘open’ adoption, showing us how welfare reform forces us to examine the character of our society, exploring the healing powers of art, or outlining how the legal profession can win back public trust, this well-constructed magazine of optimistic activism gives us clear-eyed reasons to hope and the tools to make a difference.
The Nation, New York, NY
Editor: Katrina vanden Heuvel
With a history of investigative reporting that goes back almost to the Civil War, The Nation carries on the noble journalistic mission of afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted. Each week’s edition brings new revelations of what’s going wrong and who’s trying to make things right, along with strong doses of uncommon wisdom from a stable of sharp columnists and contributors. From the brutal working conditions in Iowa meatpacking plants to the promise of wind power in Denmark, The Nation does more than simply surprise us with news and views overlooked elsewhere in the media–it inspires us to take action.
DoubleTake, Durham, NC.
Editors: Robert Coles and Alex Harris
Faithful to Believing in the power of the written word to inform and transform, the editors of DoubleTake grant writers such as Bobbie Ann Mason, Ian Frazier, John Berger, Susan Faludi, James Alan McPherson, and Bill McKibben the space to express their visions fully and delight readers with stories allowed to unfold at their own appropriate pace. The beautifully written fiction, personal essays, reportage, and poetry in this quarterly magazine invite us to enter other lives, try on new points of view, and gain a deeper understanding of each other and the ways we live.
Blind Spot, New York, NY.
Editor: Kim Zorn Caputo
Design: J. Abbott Miller, Paul Carlos, Casey Reas
Mixing great entwining photography with intriguing snippets swatches of prose and poetry, Blind Spot mirrors seems almost to mirror the rat-a-tat-tat bombardment of visual and verbal imagery all around us in the modern landscape. A short passage by Joyce Carol Oates lies next to a touching photo of a squalid street scene in blue-collar Knoxville; Wim Wenders’ portfolio of European cityscapes surrounds his poem about filmmaking. The designers of this semiannual journal have created an understated juxtaposition of text and outstanding photography worthy of repeated examination.
Bust, New York, NY
Editors: Celina Hex and Betty Boob
If Bust is an accurate reflection, the next generation of feminists are savvy, unpredictable, and have a new, adventurous attitude toward life. If Bust is a bellwether, feminists of the next generation have a new attitude toward life: It’s an adventure, not just a struggle. Funny, irreverent, powerful, confident, and hip, this is a magazine with a mission–to expand enlarge, shape, and firm up the minds of the New Girl Order. A substantial magazine that camouflages its zine roots, Bust tackles serious issues (motherhood, work, vaginal politics, female filmmakers, men) without taking itself too seriously. It’s all done in an engaging style that makes it definitely not your mother’s magazine (though she’ll probably love reading it).
The New Internationalist, Toronto, ON.
Taking the whole world–factory workers and native peoples as well as corporate executives and pop celebrities–as its beat, this accessible monthly produced by a cooperative of British and Canadian editors delivers hard-edged reporting on political and social issues without falling into despair. Whether it’s focusing on crusading African filmmakers, the hidden world of child labor, or the gigantic lies of the biotechnology industry, New Internationalist brings the subject alive with informative writing, rich photography, crisp graphics, and an emphasis on telling the stories of people’s lives.
Hip Mama, Oakland, CA.
Editor: Ariel Gore
No sanctified endorsement of the usual myths about motherhood here. No neat checklists of all-too-easy parenting solutions or slick write-ups of professional experts telling how it’s supposed to be. Hip Mama speaks (and listens) to parents who want or need to raise kids their own way. Engrossing personal essays reveal the lives of young mothersparents, single mothersparents, poor mothersparents, lesbian mothersparents, mothersparents without custody, mothersparents whose lives the mainstream media often ignore. With a homespun look and a zine attitude, Hip Mama explores the real stuff of parenting with a proper recognition of the ambiguity of it all–and plenty of love and humanity.
POLITICAL & SOCIAL ISSUES
The American Prospect, London, England.
Editors: Robert Kuttner and Paul Starr
With a format that falls somewhere between newsmagazine and policy journal, American Prospect covers the world of government and politics in a smart yet accessible way. Authoritative without being wonkish, progressive without being stubbornly ideological, it engages a lay audience with solid reporting and far-reaching commentary on issues such as government money being used to support church-run social programs and how television has deflated civic participation across America.
SCIENCE & THE ENVIRONMENT
Earth Island Journal, San Francisco, CA.
Editor: Gar Smith
Earth Island Journal takes environmental reporting one step beyond the usual oil spill story by highlighting the intricate web of economic, social, geopolitical, and scientific factors that affect the earth’s ecological balance. Whether it’s considering how the stress of climate change poses a threat to democracy or pointing out the full extent of environmental damage perpetrated by jet aircraft, this lively quarterly alerts readers to issues that aren’t on anybody else’s radar. The articles are well-researched, and expansive in scope. The What You Can Do box at the end of many articles leaves you with something more than an empty sense of dread and rage.
Shambhala Sun, Halifax, NS
Editor: Melvin McLead
Buddhism is hot these days, as the mainstream media zooms in on the religious leanings of celebrities like Richard Gere, Tina Turner, and Beastie Boy Adam Yauch. But for folks who want a more informative perspective on this centuries-old spiritual path, Shambhala Sun is a good place to start. Articles address broad topics such as the limits of psychoanalysis and the medical, political, and social factors that contribute to a good death. You needn’t be a card-carrying Zen master to find something useful here, although longtime Buddhists will particularly enjoy the many unexpected ways Shambhala Sun shows how spiritual practice and social change are interconnected.