After we published our list of 20 Top Global Thinkers, we thought we would be remiss if we did not also honor those who bring these voices to us in the first place. With the goal of recognizing those individuals and institutions responsible for exemplary reportage and awareness-raising in 2009, we asked our editors and writers to name their choices for the top 20 media figures, be they journalists, publications or publishers. We aggregated these nominations into the following list. Like our 20 Top Global Thinkers, our criteria for choosing media figures included individuals/publications/publishers who have shown a commitment to challenging power, holding it to account, highlighting issues pertaining to social justice and producing output that bucks conventional wisdom and encourages critical thinking.
A media institution in her own right, Amy Goodman has shown the true potential of independent media over the past 12 years by turning Democracy Now! into the largest public media collaboration in the US and around the world. Free of corporate sponsorship, DN’s hard-hitting daily broadcast rejects the soundbite format of mainstream media to provide in-depth coverage of the world’s most important issues. Unlike the MSM, Democracy Now! gives less emphasis to official voices than to those affected by the abuses of their offices. Goodman relentlessly pursues her stories, and often follows them long after the mainstream media has moved on to chase new headlines. Iraq and Afghanistan have therefore remained part of DN’s coverage for all the years that they were absent in the MSM. Policy-makers may have lost interest in the story, but for Goodman, the people on the receiving end continue to live the story. Her interviewees include voices that the MSM frequently excludes, including scholars, activists, heads of states out of favor with the United States, opposition leaders, and organizers. Through her journalism, writings and lectures, Goodman continues to set the bar for what every journalist should be aspiring to.
Al Jazeera has long set the bar for war reporting; Sherine Tadros and Ayman Mohyeldin have raised it even higher with their coverage of the conflict in Gaza in 2008- 2009. Tadros and Mohyeldin were the only two journalists working for an international English-language television network reporting from inside Gaza. They braved the dangers of Israel’s indiscriminate assault to bring hour-by-hour reporting the tragedy as it unfolded. Their courage was matched by the quality of their journalism. In 2009, Tadros continued to report from the region, covering the creeping ethnic cleansing of occupied Palestine. Mohyeldin, likewise, continues to report on issues such as the network of tunnels between Egypt and Gaza which are vital for the transfer of food, medicine and fuel supplies into Gaza.
Investigative journalist and author Jeremy Scahill continues to raise the bar for American journalism with meticulous reporting that has led to the exposure of seemingly untouchable organizations and individuals like the infamous private military company Blackwater, which later changed its name to Xe. A constant monitor of centres of power, Scahill has produced chilling investigative reports on the US government’s policies and profiteering from the privatization of war, torture as a method of interrogation and the poor treatment that American soldiers endure at the hands of the US military itself. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration’s wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, Scahill has projected that same burning lens on President Barack Obama and in addition to continuing to produce reports on Iraq and Afghanistan, has also expanded into Pakistan. From his humble beginnings at The Catholic Worker to his collaboration with Amy Goodman at Democracy Now! (he now serves as a regular correspondent on DN), Scahill has become a fundamental necessity for US news media.
One of the world’s leading investigative journalists, Lobe is a keen observer of Washington politics and the murky world of think-tanks, lobby groups, and propaganda organs that surround it. As the Washington Bureau Chief for Inter Press Service, Lobe leads a team known for its probing, hard-hitting journalism. Through timely exposes on various occasions, Lobe has revealed the subterranean forces seeking to influence public opinion through deception and subterfuge. Lobe was one of the very few journalists who in the lead up to the Iraq war rejected the simplistic ‘war-for-oil’ narrative and revealed the deep divisions inside the establishment. He earned the ire of the neoconservatives by tenaciously pursuing their activities and revealing the means through which they have come to dominate Washington. Lobelog.com is a necessary daily stop for all students of Washington politics.
Mary-Kay Wilmers (London Review of Books)
Wilmers is the editor of what we consider one of the world’s two best print publications, the London Review of Books. An initiative of the the New York Review of Books, under Wilmers’s helm, LRB has come to surpass its progenitor. LRB, in our view, has a superior stable of writers, and its approach to literary criticism and politics is edgier and more iconoclastic. Wilmers is also fearless in taking on challenging issues. After writing an article about the Israel Lobby, leading political scientists John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt had been turned down by all major US publications for being too controversial, but Wilmers who took up the challenge and published it in the LRB. Predictably the article stirred up a storm of controversy, but Wilmers stood her ground. The article was subsequently turned into a book and went on to become a bestseller. Another important and controversial book, Mahmood Mamdani’s Saviors and Survivors, likewise began its life as an article in LRB. Wilmers has been responsible for bringing us such superlative writers over the years as Tariq Ali, Edward Said, Andrew O’Hagan, Jeremy Harding, Slavoj Zizek, John Lanchester, and many others.
In 2009 Mondowiess came into its own, evolving from a lively personal blog into a collaborative New Media phenomenon that points to the future of journalism, the immense potential of self-publishing. Site co-editors Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz daily tackled issues ranging from US foreign policy, interest group politics, identity, power, activism to culture. Mondoweiss also provides a platform to other activists and writers engaged in the Israel-Palestine question, and issues related to the wider Middle East. Its indispensable reporting and commentary on the Israel Lobby and its influence over US foreign policy has played a palpable role in opening up and shifting the debate. Site creator Weiss is a reputable investigative journalist who has spent years writing for several well-known publications including The Nation, New York Times Magazine, New York Observer and Esquire. Together with Horowitz, Weiss continues to tackle issues which much of the mainstream press, including the progressive press, shies away from. The site aims ‘to publish important developments touching on Israel/Palestine, the American Jewish community and the shifting debate over US foreign policy in a timely fashion; to publish a diversity of voices to promote dialogue on these important issues; to foster the movement for greater fairness and justice for Palestinians in American foreign policy; to offer alternatives to pro-Zionist ideology as a basis for American Jewish identity’.
Le Monde Diplomatique
Offering intelligent, analytical viewpoints on major world events and issues since 1954, Le Monde Diplomatique (LMD) has 2.5 million readers worldwide and is published in 26 different languages with 72 different print and internet editions. We consider LMD one of the world’s two best print publications (the other being the London Review of Books). It is an essential source of reading by anyone who appreciates challenging social and political commentary, and LMD is an indispensable source of world journalism made up of a variety of contributors including world-class intellectuals, academics, reporters and writers.
Award-winning journalist and author Patrick Cockburn has been providing intelligent, analytical reports on the Middle East for more than 30 years through a number of publications including The Financial Times and The Independent. Being one of the few journalists to remain in Iraq after the Gulf War, Cockburn has lent his analysis to readers through a number of books on Iraq, most notably through Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq, the first written biography of the formidable Shiite resistance leader destined to shape the future of post-occupation Iraq.
Independent historian and star investigative journalist for IPS Gareth Porter is known for the scholarly rigor of his research and analysis and for the frequent scoops which have undermined official propaganda. Like fellow IPSer Jim Lobe, Porter follows Amira Hass’s famous dictum about journalism in constantly monitoring the centers of power. He has been driving a truck through the carefully constructed edifice of lies and deception of successive administrations as often as they have been erected. In 2009 alone he has produced several in-depth reports casting doubt over the administration’s rationale for war in Iraq, the Taliban-al Qa’ida connection, and the alleged Iranian experiments with a ‘neutron initiator’ for an atomic bomb.
Based in Peshawar, Rahimullah Yusufzai is the world’s leading authority on the politics of the Pakistan-Afghanistan frontier. As the world’s attention has increasingly shifted upon the region, amid all the hyperbole Yusufzai’s voice has once again emerged as an indispensable corrective to the ignorance and propaganda that confuses debate. His reputation for fairness and accuracy is such that voices on all sides of the political spectrum defer to his authority. Yusufzai is the the Executive Editor of the Pakistani daily The News‘s Peshawar bureau. For all serious journalists and scholars seeking informed opinion on developments in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theatre, Yusufzai’s Peshawar office is usually the first stop.
One of the finest writers on race, Younge is more than a journalist, he is a sage. His finely crafted, balanced sentences are frequent vehicles for aphoristic wisdom. He is one of Britain’s leading, most eloquent voices on equality and human rights. Younge also received the prestigious James Cameron Award for his ‘combined moral vision and professional integrity’ in reporting on the 2008 US presidential election. He also writes for The Nation and last year was appointed the Belle Zeller Visiting Professor of Social Policy and Public Administration at Brooklyn College at the City University of New York.
Among the most important voices of the Israeli-Jewish Left, Ha’aretz journalists Amira Hass and Gideon Levy continue to provide important reports about the reality on the ground in Israel/Palestine and the effects of the Israeli occupation upon Palestinians and Israelis alike. The daughter of Holocaust survivors and a recent recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation, Hass has lived in both Gaza and the West Bank in an effort to bypass Israeli censors which would have no doubt stifled her ability to get to the heart of matters. Although her analysis and criticisms extend to both Israelis and Palestinians, she has been the victim of several Zionist smear campaigns for her reports about Israel’s crimes but has refused to be silent, regardless of the intimidation tactics that have been launched against her. Award-winning Levy’s reports have focused primarily on the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, providing important coverage on issues around Israeli settlements of Palestinian land. Levy also serves as an editorial board member of Ha’aretz.
Working under the slogan “Books with a Critical Edge”, Verso Books has been an independent publisher since1970. Originally trading under the New Left Review, Verso’s hard working staff of a dozen employees produces 60 new titles each year. They developed their early reputation as translators of classic European literature and political works by authors such as Jean Paul Sartre, Walter Benjamin, Louis Althusser, and more recently, Giles Deleuze, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Edward Said, and Paul Virilio. Dedicated to publishing critical works in literary criticism, history, cultural studies and politics, their list of recent authors includes, Tariq Ali, Judith Butler, Benedict Anderson, Eric Hobsbawm , Stuart Hall, and Paul Gilroy. Having quadrupled in size over the past decade, Verso, which refers to the left hand of the page, maintains its reputation as publishers with a ‘radical’ edge.
The staff of the independent, not-for-profit online publication The Electronic Intifada (EI) work tirelessly with their contributors to present important reports and commentary on Palestine-related issues with the goal of countering the skewed coverage mainstream media outlets provide on Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Launched in 2001 by Ali Abunimah, Nigel Parry, Arjan El Fassed and Laurie King, EI has since blossomed into a regular stop for anyone who is serious about Palestine and is used as a source of reference by a variety of readers—it has a quarter of a million visitors each month.
Paul Jay (Real News)
Paul Jay is a Canadian journalist and director, and the creator of Real News, a project to establish an independent news and current affairs network without government or corporate funding. Real News, which aims to cover the news of the day, is committed to redefining ‘what’s important’ and gets coverage in the media. Prior to founding Real News, Jay was the creator and executive producer of the CBC Newsworld’s debate program CounterSpin, and is the founding chair of Hot Docs!, the Canadian International Documentary Film Festival. His film “Return to Kandahar”, co-directed with Nelofar Pazira, won the 2003 Gemini Award in Canada.
Nora Barrows-Friedman / Dennis Bernstein (Flashpoints)
Run by executive producer Dennis Bernstein and senior producer Nora Barrows-Friedman, the award-winning Flashpoints radio is an indispensable daily source for hard-hitting and incisive investigative and public affairs commentary. Bernstein and Barrows-Friedman (a recent recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Media Freedom Award from Media Freedom Foundation/Project Censored) continue to tackle those issues which even some progressive media outlets shy away from, with a particular emphasis on Israel/Palestine, and on-location reporting from various international hotspots. Their uncensored and independent reportage provides a needed counter to the biased and corporate-influenced productions of mainstream journalism.
British-born American author and journalist Laura Flanders provides an important alternative to American mainstream media outlets’ coverage of important US and world events through GRITtv which is broadcast weekdays on Free Speech and Link TV. Having written for various progressive publications including The Nation, Flanders was also the founding director of the women’s desk at the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). Flanders is known for her direct, in-depth interview style, as well as her cool, intelligent analyses of current affairs. She has also appeared on a number of MSM news shows including Larry King Live and Lou Dobbs Tonight where she has made her important voice heard by even wider audiences.
A former constitutional lawyer, best-selling author, and world-renowned blogger, Glenn Greenwald was accused by Michael Massing in the New York Review of Books of being too persuasive. He has the amazing ability to produce daily articles so thoroughly researched and compelling that many journalists would struggle to produce anything of near matching quality in weeks. Unlike most US progressives, Greenwald is unsparing in his criticism of liberals and conservatives alike. He has held everyone from star pundits to the US Attorney General accountable for false claims and poor reasoning. Greenwald is also a staunch defender of constitutional rights, and has been devastating in his demolition of apologists for torture.
Jane Mayer has been an investigative journalist for the New Yorker since 1995. Having written extensively about the Iraq war, Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin, she has most recently turned her attention to investigative reporting on issues concerning CIA black sites and unlawful detention. Widely read in 2009 was her award-winning book, The Dark Side: The Inside Story on How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals. Mayer’s work brings to light the Bush Administration’s abuse of executive power in the ‘War on Terror’, as well as questions the validity of terms like ‘enemy combatant’ and processes including torture as an interrogation technique used to extract evidence from detainees.
Ramzy Baroud is a Palestinian- American journalist, author and former Al Jazeera producer. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief of the Palestine Chronicle. As the author of three books, Baroud’s most recent work, My Father was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story, narrates the Palestinian struggle through the story of his own family from 1940 to present. In all of his writing and public speaking endeavors, Baroud maintains a commitment to discussing the current and historical conditions of the Palestinian ordeal, positioning himself in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for self-determination and a just peace.
Our list wouldn’t be complete without the following very honorable mentions:
Robert Fisk, Jasim al-Azzawi, Comedy Central (Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert), Dahr Jamail, Rachel Maddow, Nir Rosen, Tony Karon, FAIR, Stephen Walt, Matt Taibbi, Peter Oborne, Naomi Klein, Bill Moyers, Richard Silverstein, Helena Cobban, Paul Woodward, Afshin Rattansi, Nick Turse, Lewis Lapham, Seumas Milne, Jonathan Cook, Antony Loewenstein, Antiwar.com, The Onion, Alternet, Chris Hedges, Hamid Mir, Alexander Cockburn, P. Sainath, Juan Cole, Gregory Wilpert, Uri Avnery, Max Blumenthal, Mohammed Omer, Laila El Haddad, Ron Suskind, Shihab Rattansi, Clayton Swisher, James Bamford, Seymour Hersh, Keith Olbermann, David Edwards and David Cromwell, Robert Greenwald, John Pilger, Venezuela Analysis, Roane Carey, George Monbiot, Black Agenda Report, Robert McChesney, C. S. Soong, Dori Smith, Rose Aguilar, Pluto Press and Abdul Bari Atwan.