Cable news is shiny and nice. But when you’re ready to advance to the Big Picture, you add independent progressive news to your daily information consumption. Exposure to diverse viewpoints is the foundation of an informed opinion.
LAST UPDATED: January 20, 2020
The Value of Independent News
Why are independent news outlets valuable? They’re funded by audience members and nonprofit organizations. Protection from commercial control allows independent outlets greater journalistic freedom and the ability to offer viewpoints that contrast with the status quo narrative that is found nearly everywhere else.
Voilà! You get news from the ground up, instead of the top down. You hear news and commentary from community and global activists, university professors, scientists, book authors, and grassroots policy makers — experts whose life’s work has been devoted to an area of political or social importance. They’re the thinkers and doers who offer well-considered insights and solutions to our problems. You can’t be fully informed, until you give them a listen.
On the other hand, mainstream network news is less regulated and more commercialized than it used to be. The FCC Fairness Doctrine was overruled in 1987.
[The] Fairness Doctrine… (1949–87)… required licensed radio and television broadcasters to present fair and balanced coverage of controversial issues of interest to their communities, including by devoting equal airtime to opposing points of view… Also, candidates for public office were entitled to equal airtime.~ Matt Stefon, Britannica.com
The 6 o’clock network news gradually changed over the last few decades — while you were watching. It has an even more decided corporate perspective, or bias, which aligns itself with the special interests of Wall Street, the military industrial complex, pharmaceuticals, fossil fuels, and other large industries. The corporate bias is so thrilled with raking in huge, excessive profits, that it doesn’t see its own weaknesses and, therefore, fails to objectively report on the interference and damage that Big Business wrecks upon innumerable people and the planet.
Without independent news, it’s easy for people to miss the significance of, or maybe never hear about) important news stories. For example, here are a few needed-to-know news items from recent years:
- The majority of polls indicated Bernie Sanders had a better chance of defeating Donald Trump in the 2016 General Election than Hillary Clinton.
- Former President Jimmy Carter called the United States an oligarchy.
- The imminent danger of climate change. (Tragically, people weren’t given the message in time. The term “climate change” is now passé. We’re currently in a “climate emergency” that threatens human civilization.)
Nothing can top the dereliction of duty by mainstream corporate news than its willful neglect to accurately report on climate change. As far as informing the public, it’s been mission failure at its worst.
Our press was protected by the First Amendment — the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution — not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply “give the public what it wants”–but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.~ John F. Kennedy, Presidential Library & Museum
The mission of independent media is to correct the corporate bias. It does so by reporting on important, but under-covered, news topics. Still, every independent news outlet has its own view, or bias. A most valuable view comes from the progressive perspective.
What Bernie Sanders has to say about the future of journalism:
Op-Ed: Bernie Sanders on His Plan for Journalism | Columbia Journalism Review
According to Project Censored, censored news is “news that didn’t make the news.” Every year they select the top 25 important news stories that were underreported. Check it out:
The Top 25 Censored Stories of 2018-2019 | Project Censored
The Value of a Progressive Perspective
The real value of the progressive perspective is that it is not an establishment, corporate, liberal, conservative, or alt-right perspective. A progressive viewpoint comes from outside the elite status quo circle, and it represents a very large chunk of the general population. It’s a “people’s perspective.” (That’s my bias, anyway.) Progressive news and commentary is both produced by, and created for, “regular” people.
First, progressive news outlets challenge an elitist viewpoint, which often characterizes corporate mainstream news. Progressive news and commentary report from the bottom, or grassroots, where movements of change are conceived and nurtured. The progressive perspective challenges powerful leaders at the top, or The Establishment, whenever power is misguided or misused to the disadvantage of regular Americans.
Second, a progressive perspective goes beyond the liberal view. Progressives support economic justice, in addition to human rights and dignity-for-all. While liberals do support human rights, they are fiscally conservative. Since economic opportunity is the component that gives real teeth to protected rights, it’s a major dividing issue between progressives and liberals. The other financial divide is Big Money in politics. Progressives see it as nothing less than legalized corruption. Liberals are often comfortable with Big Money and oblivious to any deleterious impact it has on democracy. Liberal news programs (much like many conservative news outlets) are aligned with the wealthy status quo, that is, The Establishment.
Finally, progressive news outlets consider peer-reviewed science to be a highly reliable and objective source of information. Referring to the much-flaunted “climate debate,” for example, we may argue that good science (or the lack of it) is a distinguishing characteristic between the progressive viewpoint and the conservative viewpoint.
In summary, progressive news programs fill the information gap because they’re non-elite, anti-corruption, pro economic justice, and respectful of science. Unless you belong securely among the top 10%, progressive news is for YOU.
Evaluating a News Source
When looking at news stories, regardless of perspective or bias, it’s helpful to ask yourself the following questions:
- Is it factually accurate?
- What is the context? (A quote taken out of context, for instance, may be misleading.)
- Is the information up-to-date?
- Does it include all pertinent information? (Is it one-sided or objective?)
- Why are they telling me this? (Be alert for public relation efforts or industry bias.)
- How do I feel about it? (Propaganda is designed to stir emotions, either positive or negative. Be resistant to emotional manipulation.)
It may take a lengthy period of time to study and compare the overall quality of news outlets. A perspective, or bias, is not a bad thing. Every news outlet is biased, and quality news outlets make no secret of their particular bias. They are, after all, targeting an audience with that same bias. The important journalistic factor to look for is objectivity. Factual reporting cannot be one-sided. And no commentary, interpretation, or argument — regardless of bias — can hold up, unless it accounts for all the pertinent facts that are available. The following list of independent progressive news sources tries to give you a jump-start toward quality programming that strives to be objective.
Looking at All Sides
Meanwhile, it can be enlightening to see what various perspectives have to say on a particular news story. Such knowledge may also improve your political discussions with other people, regardless of where they’re comfortable on the political spectrum. Go to AllSides to find prominent news sources that represent a variety of perspectives. The site attempts to categorize media bias and help readers review the news, literally, from left to right. But a NOTE OF CAUTION: While I applaud AllSides for its mission and efforts… its bias ratings are a bit off. For instance, does MSNBC deserve to be in the same category as Democracy Now!, The Nation, or Jacobin? I think not.
Let me explain. I turned away from MSNBC several months before the 2016 Democratic Primary Election, because of a growing sense the network was shifting away from its progressive perspective and was losing its journalistic objectivity, to boot. Here’s why:
Up until that time, former MSNBC news commentator Ed Schultz frequently invited Sen. Bernie Sanders on his show. Viewers of The Ed Schultz Show expected Sanders’ presidential campaign to be covered with interest. Yet, minutes before Schultz began to film Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign kickoff on-location in Burlington, Vermont, MSNBC stopped Ed Schultz from recording the event. Not long after, Schultz resigned from MSNBC.
Rachael Maddow lost the sparkle in her eyes when she reported on Sanders and began to give Hillary Clinton priority attention. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the brilliant Maddow interviewing Clinton in a hotel room — about nothing more than another interview Clinton had just concluded with a different news outlet. The segment was embarrassingly pointless; not like Maddow’s usual reporting.
To me, it seemed like MSNBC news anchors had been ordered to campaign for Hillary Clinton. Later on, leaked DNC emails confirmed my suspicions.
Two days after Clinton campaign staff discussed how to attack Sanders on campaign finance, by citing a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) retreat he attended several months earlier, MSNBC reporter Alex Seitz-Wald wrote a Sanders hit piece using the very same criticisms. Seitz-Wald, like many other pro-Clinton journalists, started out at John Podesta’s Center for American Progress. Seitz-Wald also propagated the chair-throwing myth at the Nevada Democratic Convention to discredit Sanders and his supporters. Meet the Press host Chuck Todd held a private party for Jennifer Palmieri while she was working as the Clinton campaign communications director. MSNBC host Joy Reid regularly pushed false narratives in order to help Clinton, especially in regards to WikiLeaks. Rachel Maddow premiered ads from Clinton Super PACs on her show.~ Michael Sainato, Observer
The bottom line? It’s possible for the bias and/or objectivity of a trusted news outlet to change. Maybe the program gets new owners, industry regulations loosen, or a new sponsor is acquired. Whatever the reason may be, stay alert for bias shifts and changes in objectivity, even with your favorite news programs.
P.S. Former MSNBC anchor, Ed Schultz, later confirmed the network’s anti-Bernie bias in 2018.
Media Bias/Fact Check
Media Bias/Fact Check is another helpful resource to gauge a resource’s bias, as well as their reputation for factual reporting . However, they describe the Center (between Left and Right) as “least biased.” That is incorrect. Every perspective contains bias. The Center has a Center-bias.
The Bernie Sanders Test for Objective Reporting
There’s an easy way to know how objective a news outlet actually is. You may call it the “Bernie Sanders Test for Objective Reporting.” Note the following:
- Does the news outlet report on Bernie Sanders fairly? That is, does Sanders get equivalent time and coverage, compared to political peers of similar importance?
- Does the news outlet report on Bernie Sanders respectfully, even when in general disagreement with his policies? For instance, does it portray him as a serious politician or as a foolish politician?
You don’t need to be a Bernie Sanders supporter to use him as a measuring stick for objective reporting. But since he’s a prominent citizen of upright standing, and yet an establishment outsider, he’s useful for the purpose.
The Single-Payer Healthcare Test for Objective Reporting
Notice if your corporate network news covers single-payer healthcare objectively. The following cited article from Ralph Nader explains why it’s important for news outlets to interview civic leaders in order to give viewers the full picture. He uses single-payer Medicare for All as an example.
Television anchors like Judy Woodruff (The News Hour, PBS) and Chuck Todd (Meet the Press, NBC) prefer to interview reporters, political consultants or tired columnists, instead of knowledgeable civic leaders who use facts and speak truth to power.
One result of this marginalization is that the public discussion of key services and safeguards for the people is often vapid and fact-starved… News articles… are often thin and untimely because reporters are not in regular touch with citizen groups, instead choosing to rely on irregular official leaks and occasional insider information…
Take, for example, the current discussion on Medicare-for-All or single-payer health insurance…~ Ralph Nader, “Excluding the Civic Community Excludes Life-Savers”
The Top 12 Independent Progressive News & Commentary Outlets
Now that you’re well-educated on my own biased opinions regarding news outlets, you may wonder which independent progressive news media I prefer. I can hardly wait to tell you.
Below, I have listed 12 of my favorite bold independent outlets for progressive news and commentary. Each maintains a high journalistic standard, and is easily accessible online. Progressive or bust!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Independent publishing platforms depend on their viewers for financial support. If you have the means, please consider giving your favorite independent media platform a donation.
#1 – Democracy Now!
Democracy Now! is essential independent progressive news. In under 15 minutes, morning “Headlines” provide the best national and international news roundup — that includes respectful coverage of political, social, and environmental activism.
“Headlines” are then followed by several in-depth interviews with people directly involved with the day’s current events. Democracy Now! typically talks to activists, authors, professors, or policy makers who can contribute a first-hand account of an event and/or provide expertise on the news topic.
The show frequently captures a news angle that other outlets miss. Look for Democracy Now! web exclusives. Every so often, Democracy Now! goes on location in order to investigate important developing stories, as it did for the Standing Rock Protest and the latest U.N. Climate Summit.
During the mid-show break, listeners are treated to protest music that augments a theme from the day’s news. Indeed, Democracy Now! is a strong supporter of the arts. Show host Amy Goodman often talks to renown novelists, artists, and performers about their latest works, and each year Goodman covers the Sundance Film Festival.
Democracy Now! has been broadcasting since 1996. The hour-long weekday program is anchored by founder and executive producer Amy Goodman and award-winning journalist Juan Gonzales. It airs at 8:00 AM ET. Democracy Now! is funded by its audience and nonprofit organizations.
#2 – The Nation
Founded in 1865 by abolitionists, The Nation magazine has been publishing independent news, original investigative reports, and progressive commentary for over 150 years. The magazine covers the following topics: Politics, World, Economy, Culture, Society, Environment, and Take Action. Articles are exceptionally well-written and thought-provoking.
As extra added value, The Nation hosts travel excursions for their “community of adventurous, intellectually curious, and open-minded progressives.” The tours go to locations where history was made, and where passionate activism continues. Here’s a sampling of currently offered trips:
- U.S. Civil Rights: On the road to freedom
- Native American Voices
- The Changing Faces of Russia
- Iran: Crossroads and Complexities
The Nation is funded by subscription fees, advertising, individual donations, and its travel program. By the way, a print subscription to The Nation makes a beautiful gift for a friend or family member; the magazine is that impressive.
#3 – Rising with Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti
Rising, with Krystal Ball (a real progressive) and Saagar Enjeti (a Republican), airs on Hill.TV. You may remember Krystal Ball from MSNBC, before she was fired from that network for being too progressive. Saagar Enjeti is one of those logical, sincere conservatives. The two make a great team; respectful of one another’s views and able to disagree rationally; professional, yet conversational. Rising is insightful, independent political commentary at its best.
The Hill prides itself in “nonpartisan reporting on the inner workings of Congress and the nexus of politics and business.” According to Media Bias/Fact Check, The Hill is published by Capitol Hill Publishing, which is owned by News Communications, Inc. and is funded through a subscription and advertising model.
#4 – The Young Turks (TYT)
The Young Turks (TYT) is known as the “home of progressives.” It sometimes reminds me of a progressive Fox News. Headlines are exaggerated, the programming is filled with passionate rants, and women wear too-tight clothing. Nevertheless, should you ever feel lonely or discouraged in your politics, TYT is the spot for progressive community and empowerment.
I rarely miss a show. I love it when TYT host Cenk Uygur goes off on a rant. But whether ranting or discussing, Cenk’s political commentary is smart and cogent.
But that isn’t the only reason The Young Turks makes the Top 12. If we didn’t have TYT, there’d be a gaping hole in the progressive movement.
Cenk Uygur, TYT founder and host, is also a political activist. He founded Wolf-PAC, which fights to overturn Citizens United and to institute public-funded elections. He’s also an original founder of Justice Democrats, which backs progressive, unbought candidates for national office. Combining Uygur’s media savvy with his passion for democracy, TYT has evolved into a powerful, progressive, political activist platform.
TYT is where you go to learn about political candidates who are ignored by mainstream media: progressive candidates. TYT is where you go for real insight into political policies that get pooh-poohed by mainstream media: progressive policies.
Tune into TYT for commentary and moral support whenever there’s a nail-biting event: Town Hall, Democratic Debate, or Election Night. It’s a restorative experience — because TYT doesn’t just report, it’s invested in the progressive movement right along with you. Biased, yes, but also objective. TYT commentators note every weakness and error, as well as success, that any politician or candidate exhibits — including our beloved progressives. Sure, TYT makes you feel good and strong about being a progressive. But it’s the objectivity that renders the show a most-valuable, viewer-supported, progressive outlet. TYT keeps it real.
#5 – The Intercept
Thanks to co-founding editors Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill, The Intercept takes speaking truth to power to the level that it calls “adversarial journalism.” Greenwald is famous for breaking the 2013 global surveillance story based on Edward Snowden’s disclosures. Scahill won the pretigious George Polk Book Award for his 2007 work, Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. This digital publication specializes in uncovering the ugly truth that we need to know.
The Intercept is an award-winning news organization dedicated to holding the powerful accountable through fearless, adversarial journalism. Its in-depth investigations and unflinching analysis focus on politics, war, surveillance, corruption, the environment, technology, criminal justice, the media, and more. The Intercept gives its journalists the editorial freedom and legal support they need to expose corruption and injustice wherever they find it.~ The Intercept, About & Contact
The Intercept is supported by First Look Media Works, a nonprofit organization and project of EBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar.
#6 – Truthdig
“Drilling beneath the headlines” is the motto at Truthdig. The most popular articles are original works from well-known progressives. My favorite are the opinion pieces written by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges. He’s principled, pessimistic, and writes like an archangel. Truthdig curates news from other sources, as well, so you won’t miss anything important going on in the world.
On the softer side, Truthdig embraces art and culture. The humanities develop empathy and exercise critical thinking skills, making us better democratic citizens. Running with that, Truthdig gives you book, theater, and film reviews; poetry; political satire, political cartoons; photo essays; and covers the musical and visual arts.
The website is “dedicated to reporting on current issues that are insufficiently covered by mainstream media” and to providing “expert reporting and commentary from a progressive point of view.” Truthdig is financed by grants and reader contributions.
#7 – Grist
Grist has been publishing environmental news and commentary since 1999. It tries to stay upbeat about the climate crisis, with the slogan: “Don’t freak out. Figure it out.” The publication reports everything going on in climate science, related politics, and climate activism in America and around the world. It is careful to offer realistic hope, provided governments and people take meaningful action to prevent climate catastrophe.
At Grist, we find reasons for hope and optimism every day — while also irritating and shaming those who stand in the way of progress. Our independent, nonprofit newsroom pursues in-depth stories on under-covered topics like clean energy, sustainable food, livable cities, environmental justice, and a better economy. We elevate solutions, expose inequity, and give our readers the context, knowledge, and tools to make a difference.~ About Grist
We all need to keep up with the climate crisis and with climate action. Grist enables us to do just that, without withdrawing from the subject in stunned horror. Grist is funded by readers.
#8 – The Real News Network
“The future depends on knowing” is the near-ominous motto of The Real News Network (TRNN), which augments news coverage with smart, serious discussion. TRNN stands out for covering the essence of that news all the way from the international level to the local level, which happens to be Baltimore, Maryland. The range, rather than spreading the news thin, illuminates the commonality and connectedness of human struggle, the world over.
Beyond the basic interview format, TRNN offers an interesting variety of programming. Reality Asserts Itself explores long-standing, perplexing political and/or societal situations, and is hosted by the wry-witted Paul Jay, himself, journalist, filmmaker, and TRNN founder. Real Talk Tho is where ordinary residents of Baltimore meet to “discuss and debate real solutions to the city’s intractable problems.” The show is recorded twice a month at the elegant modern soul food restaurant, Ida B’s Table. (Unfortunately, no food is ever in sight.) In 2015, TRNN launched the investigative documentary and interview show, The Empire Files, in partnership with teleSUR.
TRNN is a nonprofit organization. The website’s tagline is “No advertising. No government funding. No corporate dollars.”
Below, Paul Jay talks about the “ordinary people” bias of the Real News.
#9 – Democracy at Work
If you’re wary of socialism, or don’t know what it is, that isn’t your fault. American schools don’t teach us much about socialism. But please do start watching Democracy at Work. Throughout his lectures, economics Prof. Richard D. Wolff covers the history of various economic systems, provides insight into modern forms of socialism, talks often about worker-owned cooperatives, and provides commentary on economy-related current events. You’ll soon figure out that a thoughtful criticism of capitalism isn’t unpatriotic; it’s intelligent, because late-stage capitalism could be the death of democracy. Frequent guest Dr. Harriet Fraad contributes the psychological dimension, by discussing the impact of capitalism and class on the personal lives of men and women.
Wolff earned a BA in history from Harvard, an MA in economics at Stanford, and a PhD in economics from Yale. He has noted that, throughout his studies, socialism was seldom part of the curriculum. Wolff is now making up for that gap in the American education. Democracy at Work is funded by audience patrons.
#10 – Jacobin
Jacobin is a democratic socialist quarterly publication known for intelligent writing and striking magazine cover art. Its motto is “reason in revolt” and describes itself as “a leading voice of the American left, offering socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture”
Jacobin generates revenue through subscription fees and advertising.
#11 – Common Dreams
Common Dreams is for the progressive community. It publishes breaking news to inform and opinion pieces to inspire the. In addition, you’ll find pertinent links to other progressive resources under “Newswire.” The site is elegantly organized around news and views. But by clicking on the menu, you may drill into topical sections: World, War & Peace, Economy, Climate, Rights, Solutions, U.S., and Canada.
The “Solutions” section is important. It should remind readers that many activist warriors are fighting the Good Fight — and that there are actual, viable solutions to our most dreadful problems.
Common Dreams is a nonprofit organization funded by small donations from readers. It accepts no corporate, governmental financing, or advertisements of any kind.
#12 – Bernie Sanders
As undisputed leader of the Progressive Movement in these United States, Bernie Sanders IS progressive news. Follow his work at Sanders.Senate.gov, or just tune into any independent progressive media show — they’ve got him covered.
Sanders and his team also produce video shorts, excellent for sharing on social media, and live video recordings. The best place to find this material is at Bernie Sanders on Facebook.
Not all the worthy progressive news outlets made it to the Top 12. There are so many. But the following progressive programs certainly deserve honorable mention. If your favorite progressive news source isn’t listed anywhere, tell us about it in the comments.
Most of the “honorable mentions” listed below are straight-forward. A few use colorful language. Some may boldly appeal to your emotions, encouraging a sense of outrage at issues like political corruption, war, and climate crisis. A couple will appeal to your funny bone. Variety is the spice of life, and all of them deserve recognition for their contributions to the modern Progressive Movement.
- Act Out! – “The news corporate media won’t touch”
- The American Prospect – “Liberal intelligence that aims to advance liberal and progressive goals”
- The Canary – “Get the news that really matters” (UK-based)
- Brian Tyler Cohen – “Oy” (Thoughtful progressive commentary)
- Capital & Main – “Investigating money, power and society”
- Democratic Socialists of America – “Largest socialist organization in the United States.”
- Dissent – “America’s oldest democratic socialist magazine”
- Evonomics – “The next evolution of economics”
- Fair and CounterSpin – “Fairness & accuracy in reporting”
- The Grayzone – “Independent news website dedicated to original investigative journalism and analysis on politics and empire.”
- The Humanist Report – “Video + audio podcast of progressive commentary”
- In These Times – “Dedicated to advancing democracy and economic justice”
- The Jimmy Dore Show – “The antidote to mainstream noise makers”
- The Michael Brooks Show – “Vanguard of the new Left”
- New Statesman – The leading progressive political and cultural magazine in the United Kingdom.
- On Contact – “Dissident voices currently missing from the mainstream media”
- Patriotic Millionaires – “United in concern about the destabilizing concentration of wealth and power in America”
- Pitchfork Economics with Nick Hanauer – Good business practices can save the American economy. Hanauer explains his “pitchfork” thesis in a 2014 Politico article “The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats.”
- Popular Resistance – “Providing a daily stream of resistance news from the United States and around the world”
- Project Censored – Republishes “Validated Independent News.”
- Ralph Nader Radio Hour – “Interviews with some of the nation’s most influential movers and shakers, and thought provoking discussions of the weeks news.”
- The Rational National – “An outsider-view (Canadian) of American politics”
- Redacted Tonight – “The most radical political comedy show in America”
- Robert Reich – A brilliant teacher of ecopolitics and co-founder of Inequality Media.
- Secular Talk – “The populist to your left”
- Thom Hartmann Program – Left-wing talk radio show. “News, Opinion, Debate.”
- The Zero Hour with RJ Eskow – “The time is now”
TODAY’S Progressive News Feed
Keep up with today’s progressive news and views. Our custom feed, updated hourly, combines independent news coverage and political commentary from the best and boldest progressive-perspective news sources available online. Click the link to see TODAY’S Boldly Progressive News.
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