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Looking Back On Shadowproof’s 4th Year

We launched Shadowproof four years ago. Let’s take this moment to assess what many of you helped us accomplish in the past year and discuss some of our aspirations for the coming year.

Since our last birthday, Shadowproof published 50 articles from 22 freelance journalists. This was made possible by members and donors, as well as journalists who contributed work and believed we could provide a solid platform for their reporting.

Kevin Gosztola reported on President Donald Trump and his administration’s indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, as well as Chelsea Manning’s resistance against the grand jury investigating WikiLeaks. He brought his vast knowledge of the court-martial against Manning to the allegations against Assange to show how the government is attacking a journalist.

Brian Sonenstein covered prisoner resistance in Alabama, Kentucky, and other states, as well as prison policy issues in the Democratic presidential primary. He also broke a major story exposing “gladiator fights” at Soledad state prison in California, when he obtained video of incidents.

We now have 126 members, who give money monthly toward our stability and to ensure we can greenlight stories pitched to us by freelance contributors.

Our weekly newsletter, “Keeping the Issues Alive,” completed its first year of publication. All Shadowproof members are able to receive this newsletter, which features interviews with our contributors as well as deeper dives into under-covered stories. We also use the newsletter to share film and book reviews.

For example, one week our newsletter covered the struggle of musicians in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, who went on strike. We covered the outcome and tied it to fights against the billionaire class throughout the country. One member responded, “This is really important, and I’d heard nothing about it. Thanks, Shadowproof!”

The more subscribers we have to our member newsletter, the more sustainable Shadowproof will be as an independent media organization. (Subscribe for $5/month if you would like to receive the newsletter.)

Shadowproof continued to support two podcasts: “Unauthorized Disclosure,” hosted by Rania Khalek and Kevin Gosztola, and “Beyond Prisons,” hosted by Brian Sonenstein and Kim Wilson. Both saw their pool of members and listeners grow in the past year. And C.J. Baker, who curates a website called “Ongoing History Of Protest Songs,” helped us feature protest songs each month.

Last year, we mentioned we wanted to do more journalism with documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. Camille Fassett, Will Pierce, and Tom Secker helped us fulfill that goal. Camille contributed several pieces on police use of surveillance equipment. Will showed how local police in Evanston, Illinois crafted a secret drone policy. Tom contributed multiple reports on the influence of government agencies on Hollywood productions.

We are constantly gratified by our expanding reach. After musician Dr. John died, his official Twitter account shared our piece about a protest song that was given to him by a former prisoner who did time at Angola prison in Louisiana.

The Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) noticed Kevin’s analysis of the case against Assange and its threat to journalism. Jared Ware, a freelance contributor, was interviewed for a CJR report on media access to prisons and risk of retaliation against prisoners who agree to be sources.

Major outlets like The Atlantic recognized Shadowproof’s role in shining a light on the 2018 prison strike.

We expanded to additional platforms to ensure more readers see our work. Several of our reports were picked up by Truthout, an independent online media outlet that has been at the forefront of journalism on social justice since the early 2000s. And Kevin has published multiple longer reads at Medium and enjoyed success.

Shadowproof recognizes its limitations. We do not have billionaire or millionaire donors who will give us vast sums of money and resources to achieve our potential. But we also believe relying on mega-donors might have a negative influence on our editorial choices and make us less financially stable should those donors decide to withdraw their support.

As tough as the media economy is for journalists, writers, editors, photographers, and independent media producers, we believe it is up to us to develop innovative ways to survive that can keep alternative and independent journalism at Shadowproof vibrant and impactful.

Shadowproof experimented with a limited podcast series with journalist Aaron Cynic on the Chicago mayor’s race. Going forward, we believe there is great potential for one-off podcast projects that can unpack complex subjects.

In the coming year, Kevin intends to travel to London to cover Assange’s extradition hearing in February.

Shadowproof hopes to launch a quarterly print publication in the next year that draws upon the vibrant tradition of alternative magazines in the United States. With contributions from journalists, writers, satirists, artists, cartoonists, and photographers, and pullouts that can be framed, this publication will offer readers a chance to pause with voices of clarity, who can be a relief from the accelerating and overwhelming Internet news environment.

Of course, in the next year, we would like to publish even more work from journalists and form new relationships with many more independent voices who deserve to be read widely. Particularly, we still would like to regularly publish work from a reporter who covers climate disruption or struggles for environmental justice regularly. We would also like to increase our coverage of issues facing indigenous communities around the country and give native writers a platform.

In this early stage of a drawn-out Democratic presidential primary, we are encouraged by the way progressive, and even socialist, politics are driving the debates by candidates. More significantly, the centrists of the Democratic Party, who have fronted for corporate interests for decades, seem to have no compelling response to visionary ideas. They find themselves lowering our expectations and telling us what we cannot do to transform our country. All they have is tone policing and middling plans to preserve the status quo, which is untenable for the vast majority of the country (if not the world).

Aside from the irreverence that is owed to any politician invoking elementary classroom rules to pathetically clamor for attention, so many of us can agree that righteous indignation and radical imagination are necessary. President Donald Trump’s administration is locking the country into a future of climate catastrophe. The military-industrial complex keeps metastasizing and will result in further environmental destruction. Trump is working to change the law so refugees fleeing parts of Central America ravaged by U.S. interventions and economic policy are unable to claim asylum.

The political moment feels increasingly dark. Yet, rather than grapple with how we got here and fight for real structural change, Democrats and establishment media pundits seek to blame attention to systemic problems on agents of the Russian government. This baffling political immaturity threatens to plunge us further into the abyss we are trying to climb out of collectively.

Nevertheless, there is resistance that gives us radical hope: the efforts of communities fighting fossil fuel industry construction of more toxic pipelines; activists disrupting ICE’s mass deportations of immigrants; groups standing up in solidarity against the rise of racism and hate throughout the nation, and so much more.

We are proud to still be here after our fourth year. We do not take any day for granted. It is exceptionally difficult to operate an independent media organization in the way we have chosen to do so. But we recognize that we are one of several organizations that create space for dissenting voices, and these spaces are important for pushing back against a government and corporate culture constantly refining its methods of oppression.

Thank you for supporting and reading Shadowproof. Onward to another year of resistance and finding radical hope.


The 10 most popular articles in Shadowproof’s 4th year were:

  1. Documents: CIA Successfully Pressured Michael Bay To Change Benghazi Movie by Tom Secker
  2. California Prisoners Say Videos Show ‘Gladiator Fights’ At Soledad State Prison by Brian Sonenstein
  3. Why South Carolina Abandoned Prisoners During Hurricane Florence by Brian Sonenstein
  4. Elliott Abrams Melts Down As Muslim Congresswoman Questions Role In Crimes Against Humanity by Kevin Gosztola
  5. Liberal Backlash To Protest At Tucker Carlson’s Home Reinforces Crackdown On Dissent by Kevin Gosztola
  6. Reality Winner’s Sentence: Culmination Of An Effort To Break A Whistleblower’s Spirit by Kevin Gosztola
  7. On WikiLeaks Email Releases, Mueller Team Ignored Findings Of Former US Intelligence Officials by Kevin Gosztola
  8. Shuffled Between Jails By Bureau Of Prisons, Reality Winner Hasn’t Been Outside For Weeks by Kevin Gosztola
  9. To Attack Julian Assange, CNN Twists Embassy Surveillance Records That Were First Covered By Spanish Newspaper by Kevin Gosztola
  10. NSA Whistleblower Reality Winner Receives Longest Sentence Ever For Unauthorized Disclosure by Kevin Gosztola


Shadowproof is a press organization driven to expose systemic abuses of power in business and government while at the same time developing a model for independent journalism that supports a diverse range of young freelance writers and contributors. It is intrinsically committed to elevating voices from marginalized communities, as well as dissenting perspectives which deserve greater attention.