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Looking Back On Shadowproof’s Third Year

We launched Shadowproof three years ago. Let’s take this moment to assess some of what we have done in the past year and discuss some of our aspirations for the coming year.

Our support for freelance journalists grew exponentially. Since our last birthday, we published two-to-three reports on average from freelance journalists, like Michael Arria, Willie Burnley Jr., Aaron Cynic, Arvind Dilawar, Elizabeth King, Michael Sainato, Devyn Springer, and many others. We published 30 articles from freelance writers in the last year, compared to 18 the year before.

This was made possible by members and donations, as well as journalists who contributed work and believed we could provide them a solid platform for their reporting.

Kevin Gosztola traveled to Augusta, Georgia, twice to report on NSA whistleblower Reality Winner’s case. He appeared on “Democracy Now!” and helped bring attention to how President Donald Trump’s administration has continued the war on whistleblowers. That happened because so many of you were willing to chip in to fund his reporting.

Brian Sonenstein put Trump’s immigrant detention and deportation tactics in recent historical context, showing patterns of abuse, neglect, and trauma inflicted across several administrations. He also exposed how the US Department of Agriculture funded rural jail expansion and reported on prison uprisings like Operation PUSH.

We now have 156 members, which means we picked up several members in the past year.

To show appreciation for our members, we launched a weekly newsletter called “Keeping the Issues Alive” in April. We send out four issues a month and alternate between two versions—one which features interviews with journalists and deeper dives into stories published at Shadowproof, another which explores arts and culture and the power of artists to transcend the political moment.

The weekly newsletter is not regularly published to our website. It is our way of offering a perk to members, who give us stability by providing a monthly source of funds for our media organization.

Shadowproof continued to support the weekly podcast, “Unauthorized Disclosure,” hosted by Rania Khalek and Kevin Gosztola. The podcast, “Beyond Prisons,” hosted by Brian Sonenstein and Kim Wilson, which elevates individuals directly impacted by America’s system of mass incarceration, continued to grow in its second year.

Our “Protest Music Project” did quite well. We welcomed C.J. Baker, who curates a website called “Ongoing History Of Protest Songs.” We now publish his protest songs of the week, and music journalist Liz Pelly contributed an exceptional “Protest Platforms” series that highlighted how platforms for the creation and distribution of music carry as much political weight as the content of songs.

The work we published focused on maintaining a vibrant space for dissenting views while also encouraging solidarity with journalists and various dissident voices that are under attack in the United States. We also encouraged healthy skepticism toward media narratives that lack any sort of nuance; in particular, coverage of Russia, Korea Peninsula, Syria, and Venezuela.

There are definite areas where we need to build and improve.

Part of achieving success has involved recognizing our limitations. For the most part, we focus on a few stories and then follow developments closely rather than trying to regularly publish stories that reflect 24-hour news cycle—especially because often the 1-3 stories the U.S. establishment press want to hit hard aren’t the stories we want to dwell upon.

Budget constraints mean we can only support a handful of journalists every month, but as the number of members grows, it will become possible to publish more than an average of 2-3 reports per month.

Our goal is to hit 200 members by August 2019 so we can achieve this objective.

It is never too late for humanity to do something collectively to diminish the impact of climate disruption. Nor do we believe spreading gloom about the climate is effective in mobilizing people to do something about increasing dangers to our daily lives.

With that in mind, we would like to publish a lot more reporting on environmental activism or climate justice efforts. We have put out calls for contributions on this topic and published a few reports in our second year. We hope to convince several journalists, who are doing critically important work in this area, to publish some of their work at Shadowproof.

We would like to do much more journalism that takes advantage of the Freedom of Information Act. By obtaining documents in the public interest, we know we will expose activity government agencies wish to conceal. All we have to do is better manage our time and resources so we can produce these kind of news reports.

Last year, we summed up the moment by saying the Trump administration was a real-life parody of all the most destructive aspects of American government and corporate influence over U.S. politics. It is still an exhausting farce that not even the most creative minds in satire can keep up with. That has not changed.

Compounding everything is a U.S. establishment press that hyperventilates about civility, tone, and process, and panics when Trump is too cordial or diplomatic with the leaders of countries that Americans have been told to treat as their enemies. Too many pundits act concerned that Trump will ignite a nuclear war then turn around and complain that he isn’t more aggressive in his condemnation of leaders with arsenals at their fingertips. Unbelievable amounts of time are spent on the bluster of an unhinged president rather than covering struggles fought in communities for economic, environmental, racial, and social justice.

Plus, we have only a few months until the midterm elections. Corporate Democrats see Russia behind every other pocket of dissent on the internet against their preferred candidates. They cower when given the opportunity to promote policies that would address the material conditions in which so many Americans live, like raising the minimum wage to $15, passing Medicare For All, stopping fossil fuel pipelines, abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and so much more.

We are proud to be here after a third year. We do not take any day for granted. It is exceptionally difficult to operate an independent media organization. But we recognize we are one of several organizations that create space for dissenting voices, and those type of spaces are crucial.

Onward to another year of encouraging a culture of resistance and helping others find radical hope in this bleak political climate.

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Here’s a look at some statistics from the past year:

Shadowproof received around 1 million pageviews since our last birthday, averaging around 100,000 page views a month. This is lower than the previous year and reflects changes in our publication strategy, as we focus less on quantity of articles and more on quality. While these overall numbers are down, some of our most popular posts in 2018 surpassed those from the year before in page views—a trend we’ve seen building since shifting our editorial priorities in 2017.

Here are the top 5 most popular posts at Shadowproof from our second year:

Disney Withholds Bonuses As Union Workers Protest Poverty Wages by Michael Sainato

Separation Of Immigrant Families Was Part Of Deportation Under Obama—Now Trump Is Expanding The Practice by Brian Sonenstein

Read The FBI File For Renowned Black Musician And Poet Gil Scott-Heron by Ken Klippenstein

Clinton Democrats Embrace Losing Strategy To Combat ‘Sanders-Style Socialism’ In Midterms by Kevin Gosztola

Emails Suggest UVA Police Downplayed White Supremacist Groups During Unite The Right Rally by Ken Klippenstein

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Kevin Gosztola and Brian Sonenstein reflect on Shadowproof’s second year and discuss plans for the future:

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. (Credit: White House livestream)
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