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Catch Up With IMI in 2019, and Our Plans for the Year Ahead

Important news about the Independent Media Institute’s work in 2019, and for our coming plans going into 2020.

Important news about the Independent Media Institute’s work in 2019, and for our coming plans going into 2020.

The goal we have here at IMI is to give the many writers and public intellectuals whose work is so essential for change and influence on the big issues the maximum media reach, often across national borders. That has to be the goal once you come to see that the big challenges facing humanity often can’t be solved by one country (take the climate crisis as an example). If you haven’t been following all of our projects closely, this post is a great way to catch up.

Let’s get right to it: There’s not only a national election coming up that will decide the fate of our nation, but also a cascading series of global-scale challenges that have to be met; accelerating climate change; an international right-wing fascist/populist movement; multinational financial corruption; and a growing number of centers of high-stakes international conflict.

IMI has devoted its energies this year to building a national network of media partners, building a bigger outreach capacity to get our fellows booked into media outlets to discuss their work. At the same time, we have expanded a list of partner publications that spans five continents and created a global network for the work our writers and experts produce. So far this year, the work we’ve done can be found at 50 publications and counting, publishing 1,000 articles, along with many radio and TV interviews. That’s the media part of it, and then there are the real-world changes that happened directly as a result of the work we produced—from how our original reporting was hugely influential in prompting the Democratic National Committee to fix its plans for the nomination process at the 11th hour, to how we were instrumental in generating outrage to spark a congressional hearing over charter school corruption.

The people we work with are leaders in their respective fields; their work can’t be supported enough. Below is a rundown on what has been accomplished—and where we are going.

Let’s start with Kali Holloway’s Make It Right Project, which is the only project going in the U.S. to shift public consciousness on the thousands of Confederate monuments across the South—and agitate for their removal. Holloway has worked this year as an activist coordinator, organizer, public intellectual, and leading agitator everywhere from Jacksonville, Florida, to Dallas, Texas, and Charleston, South Carolina, on a range of projects and campaigns. She has received countless requests for advice by activists looking to remove a statue, change a street sign, or eliminate a state holiday dedicated to the Confederacy. Her work has appeared in countless publications, national and local—from the Daily Beast, to the Charleston City Paper. These are much more than statues—they are the bedrock infrastructure of a hate network and political mindset that continues to divide this country, more than 150 years after the Civil War.

In the coming months, she will be expanding her project focus to fight back at the intersections of other issues, where Confederate monuments play a role in encouraging hate groups and gun violence. These issues will be a major backdrop to the state and national political and election battles in 2020—and the opportunities for change, and to prevent tragedies are immense.

Steven Rosenfeld’s Voting Booth is, only one year in, a leading and trusted information source among national election experts and lawyers. Rosenfeld’s reporting was hugely influential in the DNC’s decision to change its plans and delay “virtual voting” for the nomination process. Rosenfeld exposed the many vulnerabilities that voters could face, and thanks in big part to his work, the much more trustworthy and verifiable options of early voting and vote-by-mail were expanded in the upcoming Iowa, Nevada, and other caucuses. Given the amount of distrust and confusion around the electoral process leading up to 2020, Rosenfeld’s contribution to the process is about as impactful as journalism can be. He will continue to work on behalf of our democracy as we face one of the biggest elections in the history of this country.

Vijay Prashad, the chief correspondent of IMI’s Globetrotter project, continues his mission to cover the challenges facing the Global South, and the billions of people who seek independent development and the spread of more social- and democratic-minded politics. In 2019, Globetrotter’s reach has grown from appearing across a range of progressive and independent U.S. publications, and expanded to dozens of publications globally, published in English media outlets and translated in Latin America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. Prashad has consistently been on the frontlines of struggle and conflict, and his work has been joined by Teesta Setalvad’s efforts to cover Narendra Modi’s project to destroy democratic institutions in India, and Evelyn Leopold’s coverage of America’s extremely misguided efforts to undermine the United Nations. We are pleased to announce the addition this year to Globetrotter’s fellows of writer and academic Justin Podur, whose essays cover everything from the future of high-tech surveillance to the fragile prospects for peace from Afghanistan to Yemen.

Earth | Food | Life, the brainchild of dynamo editor Reynard Loki, is like no other media project in the environmental space—in any given week, Loki works to share reports on climate change threats, provocative animal rights essays, and insights on the frontlines of the food revolution that is sweeping America—increasingly organic, increasingly sustainable, increasingly humane. Please check out the work of EFL’s writing fellows, Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner and Lucy Goodchild van Hilten, and the freelancers and experts that Loki is working with. It might help you to make more thoughtful decisions, and be more active in trying to protect the planet we live on.

Valerie Vande Panne, chief correspondent for the Local Peace Economy project, produces some of the most inspiring work around on a weekly basis. Centering love, peace, and sustainability in her essays, she brings readers up close to the projects and initiatives of people all over this country and beyond who understand that you can’t build an economy around war and violence, greed and short-term planning.

IMI’s Our Schools project, led by veteran journalist and public schools advocate Jeff Bryant, made a huge impact right out of the gate, prompting a congressional hearing on the back of a report on the Department of Education’s disastrous billion-dollar charter school program. His work takes readers to the flash points in the efforts to protect public school systems, and expose the fraud and incompetence that is rife in the charter school industry. A recent report by Sarah Lahm on problems in the nonprofit charter industry made media waves and was recently highlighted in Nonprofit Quarterly.

Simon Greer of Face to Face has spent the past year working on some very challenging questions, essential to our society: How do you find common political ground among people with different value systems? What do the political labels we live by really mean? Read his work, and you’ll find yourself musing on the issues he raised still many weeks after. It’s some of the hardest political ground for writers to cover, because there are no easy answers or solutions. Greer does it with ease.

Economy for All’s Nancy Altman is America’s foremost advocate for defending and expanding Social Security—and we are so proud of her work in shaping policy in the U.S. Congress and in the Democratic presidential debates. To read her work is to see the frontlines of a very difficult challenge we face, as some of the most powerful factions in the country are constantly at work to chip away at the most successful social program in U.S. history, and spread all manner of propaganda about its imminent demise. And Marshall Auerback is one of Economy for All’s most frequent contributing writers, has in his brilliant articles covered everything from the immigration crisis and the trade war to the future of finance, banking and public deficits.

In the coming months, Economy for All will be zooming in on important and popular efforts to expand access to and improve America’s substandard and private health care system.

Jefferson Morley’s careful reporting and analysis for The Deep State is possibly the only journalistic endeavor that is tracking the globalization of intelligence and spycraft, which is happening at an astonishing speed. The merging of intelligence agencies across the planet has huge consequences for diplomacy and national sovereignty, as both are increasingly pushed to the side, and the agencies at the heart of intelligence sharing agreements are increasingly front and center of major security decisions. Morley’s work increasingly challenges the perspective of traditional “national security” journalism, offering a lens that is a better match for the world we increasingly live in. Read his recent article “The Democrats Are Trapped in Trump’s ‘Deep State’ War” in the New Republic.

Last, but certainly not least, Phillip Smith’s journalism for Drug Reporter continues its 20-plus-year journey as perhaps the best one-stop shop for covering the drug reform and mass incarceration movement agenda out there. Read Smith’s recent article about how the legalization of hemp cultivation has made it much harder for officials to prosecute on Salon.

In addition to everyone mentioned above, there are many other wonderful writers and thinkers we work with, who don’t work under any particular project, and what they do is often as important as the other work we do. Take, for example, Thom Hartmann, one of the greatest progressive media talk show hosts alive—his articles are some of the most popular out there.

There’s much more to come from IMI, especially if you support this work!

We can’t do it alone.

Jan Frel, Executive Director

Jenny Pierson, Manager of Editorial Projects and Programs Administrator

Independent Media Institute