UPDATE: Visit the nominees and winners of the 2009 Utne Independent Press Awards.
Each issue of Utne is a verbal collage, an assemblage of ideas and articles we’ve found in the publications that arrive here by the dozen every day. We published our nominees for this year’s favorites in our last issue. The winners appear below. Some are perennial favorites; others are new finds. All are brimming with the creative energy and freedom of thought that make them this year’s best of the independent press. –The Editors
The 16th annual roster of the best, liveliest, wisest, most provocative periodicals we’ve seen in the past year
This gorgeous bimonthly journal of nature and political thought can be counted on to provide some of America’s most eloquent and impassioned essays in defense of the environment and social change. $35/yr. (6 issues) from 187 Main St., Great Barrington, MA 01230; www.oriononline.org.
In an era when the president believes God speaks to him directly, the Washington-based monthly newsletter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State has never been more apropos. $18/yr. (11 issues) from 518 C Street NE, Washington, DC 20002; www.au.org.
From his subterranean hobbit house in rural eastern Oregon, cemetery caretaker Dan Price muses about the meaning of life, expressing himself via drawings, thoughtful journal entries, and excerpts gleaned from his esoteric reading. $5 (one copy) from Box 109, Joseph, OR 97846; www.moonlight-chronicles.com.
To call The Walrus Toronto’s answer to Harper’s is to put it in fine company, but doesn’t quite convey what makes it so good in its own right. Smart, literary, and quintessentially Canadian, this quasi-monthly is a flash of brilliance from the city with the hottest magazine scene in the hemisphere. $39.75/yr. (10 issues) from 19 Duncan St., Suite 101, Toronto, ON M5H 3H1; www.walrusmagazine.com.
The American Scholar
Anne Fadiman’s peerless seven-year run as editor of the Phi Beta Kappa Society’s 73-year-old journal ended last fall with yet another issue full of lively essays by new and seasoned writers alike. It was a bittersweet reminder of how much this quarterly has done to keep literary journalism a vital art. $25/yr. (4 issues) from 1606 New Hampshire Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20009; www.pbk.org/pubs/amscholar.htm.
With its creamy, uncoated paper, elegant type, and Victorian-meets-comic-noir covers, this literary spinoff from McSweeney’s is as pleasing to a designer’s eye as it is to a wordsmith’s ear. $65/yr. (10 issues) from 826 Valencia St., San Francisco, CA 94110; www.believermag.com.
Taking top honors in the international category for the seventh time, this monthly with offices in England and Toronto delivers a rich mix of trenchant reporting, thoughtful analysis, and fearless campaigning for global justice. $44/yr. (12 issues) from Box 1062, Niagara Falls, NY 14304; www.newint.org.
A magazine for people with curious ears, Musicworks reports on the world of experimental adventures in sound: sonic sculptures, electronica, new instruments, and old instruments played with ‘new intentions.’ Each issue includes a CD. $39 U.S./$33 Canada (3 issues) from 401 Richmond St. W, Suite 358, Toronto, ON M5V 3A8, Canada; www.musicworks.ca.
Columbia Journalism Review
While finger pointers accuse media outlets of being too liberal, too conservative, too wishy-washy, or just plain wrong, we give CJR a thumbs-up for its investigative work, tireless reporting, and deep coverage of the journalistic trade. $27.95/yr. (6 issues) from Box 578, Mt. Morris, IL 61054; www.cjr.org.
While profit-driven corporations continue to buy up and dumb down alternative newsweeklies, Denver’s Westword (part of the New Times chain) covers Colorado with an old-school sensibility. The arts coverage is refreshingly unaffected, the columnists routinely surprise, and the award-winning investigative work is as gutsy as it is well written. Free in Denver area. $50/yr. (52 issues) from Box 5970, Denver, CO 80217; www.westword.com.
This superbly edited and luxuriously designed ‘modern dog culture magazine’ — consistently informative, touching, and hilarious — may compel even dog-averse humans to proclaim, ‘Dog is my co-pilot!’ $15/yr. (4 issues) from 2810 Eighth St., Berkeley, CA 94710; www.thebark.com.
While red and blue America spent the year arguing over whether Kerry or Bush was ‘God’s candidate,’ this sharply written, well-reported monthly, edited by Christian progressive Jim Wallis, stayed on its perennial message: Spirituality may be essential to human moral evolution, but religion and politics should stand separately in the public square. $39.95/yr. (12 issues) from Box 2056, Marion, OH 43306; www.sojo.net.
Given the tenor of media discourse in 2004, this thriving progressive publication might have been tempted to trade tough reporting for crowd-pleasing punditry. Instead, MoJo took the time to get inside and ahead of the political stories that mattered most, from the 9/11 Commission to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. $24/yr. (6 issues) from Box 334, Mt. Morris, IL 61054; www.motherjones.com.
The quarterly magazine of the Natural Resources Defense Council is part glossy geographic journal, part frontline update for those who love the living world. With American environmentalists now in the fight of their lives, OnEarth is the wily trainer in the corner with the pep talks and tactical advice to keep them in the ring. $15/yr. (4 issues) including NRDC membership from 40 W. 20th St., New York, NY 10011; www.nrdc.org/onearth.
This Montreal-based bimonthly will show you how gripping a field trip to the frontiers of reason can be. Get ready to meet the creative labs and minds that, for better or worse, now hold the power to reshape the economy, culture, and life itself. $14.95/yr. (6 issues) from Box 420886, Palm Coast, FL 32142; www.seedmagazine.com.
Radical cousin of CNN’s scrolling news bar, Cursor provides a timely digest of news from a wide selection of mainstream and independent sources, as well as links to political blogs, commentary, and satire. www.cursor.org.
Driven by a vision of progressive collaboration and reform, WorldChanging explores the democratizing potential of modern technology with sharp insight and unwavering idealism. www.worldchanging.com.