There are those who say that this is a dire time for journalism. They may well be right. Over the past year, newspapers have struggled, editorial staffs have shrunk, accusations that coverage is growing tepid have been flung, and beloved publications have closed their shops. 'Whatever happens, the crisis is here,' Eric Alterman writes in the Nation (Nov. 13, 2006). For journalists, he says, a business model that concerns itself with 'news 'consumers,' rather than citizens, implicitly strip[s] the profession of dignity and purpose.' By extension, citizens recast as no more than actors in an economy are done a disservice as well.
Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders dropped the United States nine spots to number 53 in its 2006 Worldwide Press Freedom Index after ranking the country number 17 in 2002, the first year of the index. It's easy to feel that we're slowly degrading, sliding toward a media landscape that's a little less authentic and a little more Fake News, a little less lively and a lot more weary. But wait.
Somewhere in Ohio, there's a man operating a letterpress and cutting down the margins on his latest zine. In cities far and wide, young editorial squads are picking up the reins of warhorse titles. Quarterly publications are plugging their noses and taking the bimonthly plunge. And every week, it seems, there's an intriguing title on our arrivals table marked with an enthusiastic Post-it note: 'New!' or 'New to our library!' Imagine picking it up, flipping it over in your hands, and knowing that you're holding an object that represents the work, the commitment, and the passion of people who aren't letting go of their dignity and purpose.
We admit to being media geeks. We admit to being magazine-and-journal lovers, nonfiction aficionados, and editorial-column addicts. But preparing for the Utne Independent Press Awards never fails to give us pause. It is a time to reflect on the incredible wealth of the independent press and to renew our enthusiasm for promoting it, celebrating it, and sharing its splendor with our readers.
So we are honored to present the winners of the 18th annual competition. Each of the 107 publications nominated is in some way outstanding and essential. These titles aren't just presenting the voices and viewpoints missing from the mainstream, but are doing it well: carving out niches of coverage, making information accessible and elegant, challenging and inspiring their readers. In short, these are the publications that give us hope.