Looking Back On Shadowproof’s Fifth Year
We launched Shadowproof five years ago. Many of you helped us accomplish quite a bit so let’s take a moment to celebrate the impact we’ve had.
Since our last birthday, Shadowproof published 26 articles from 17 freelance journalists. While we published fewer freelance articles than last year, we paid writers greater amounts than in previous years. Members and donors, as well as journalists who contributed work and believed we could provide a solid platform for their reporting, made that possible.
Shadowproof managing editor Kevin Gosztola traveled to London—just before COVID-19 shut down the world—and covered a week-long extradition hearing in WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s case. His coverage was featured on BBC Radio, Sky News Australia, Common Dreams, The Grayzone, The Real News, The Canary, and MintPress News.
Kevin also garnered widespread attention after he exposed the who’s who of corporate lobbyists and foreign policy hacks Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez appointed to Democratic National Convention Committees. It forecast the zeal in which the establishment would coalesce around former Vice President Joe Biden to extinguish Senator Bernie Sanders’ chances to win the Democratic presidential primary.
Beyond Prisons, which Shadowproof publishing editor Brian Sonenstein co-hosts, was recognized by Elle magazine’s list of the top 10 anti-racist podcasts. He continued to break stories about “gladiator fights” in California prisons for our “Prison Protest” column and collaborated with Solitary Watch to report on growing evidence that brief stints in solitary confinement may increase a person’s chances of death after release from prison.
Brian’s research found corrections departments in every state in America claimed to be “understaffed”—a claim historically used to increase investments in incarceration—and he delved into the backgrounds of every member on President Donald Trump’s commission on policing.
In addition to our “Trans Behind Bars” series by Adryan Corcione, which explored the incarceration of trans people, we published letters from incarcerated people who opposed plans to build new jails in New York City. We are in the midst of featuring reports on how prison abolitionists confront violence without involving the police.
We launched a YouTube show called “The Dissenter Weekly” last December that highlights whistleblower stories. And in July, we replaced our weekly member newsletter, Keeping the Issues Alive, with a more focused newsletter called The Dissenter.
The newsletter is still curated by Kevin, and it offers subscribers in-depth coverage of whistleblowers and the obstacles they face within government and corporate institutions. One weekly edition is sent to all subscribers, and paid subscribers receive a second and/or third edition every week with additional reporting and commentary.
Shadowproof maintained its support for two podcasts: “Unauthorized Disclosure,” hosted by Rania Khalek and Kevin Gosztola, and “Beyond Prisons,” hosted by Brian Sonenstein and Kim Wilson. And C.J. Baker, who curates a website called “Ongoing History Of Protest Songs,” kept up his “Protest Song Of The Week” contributions.
We now have 120 members, who give money monthly toward our stability and to ensure we can greenlight stories pitched to us by freelance contributors. This is a loss of six members compared to last year, which we find remarkable given the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on individual finances. And we are grateful for all the new members and donors, who backed our COVID-19 relief fundraiser for freelance journalists.
Our podcasts, as well as our newsletter, are crucial ways for Shadowproof to sustain the work we publish.
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.
The more subscribers, the more we will be able to give a diverse range of voices a platform for their journalism on our website. (Subscribe for $5/month if you would like to receive the newsletter or support “Beyond Prisons” or “Unauthorized Disclosure.”)
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 if we relied on mega-donors that could lead members and readers to question our editorial independence. Plus, a mega-donor could abruptly cut their support and force us to shut down.
We recognize our failures and vulnerabilities in addition to our successes. Shadowproof ambitiously set out to publish a print zine during our fourth birthday. We envisioned a quarterly publication in the vibrant tradition of alternative magazines, with contributions from writers, satirists, artists, and more. However, the economic downturn and pandemic, as well as the small budget and resources we have, forced us to rethink how and when we may produce a zine.
Neither Kevin nor Brian pay themselves for the work they do at Shadowproof. Throughout the past five years, they have made sure the vast majority of funds went toward hiring journalists. But that can only last for so long before they will need to draw some small income from Shadowproof in order to keep operating what they built.
We also set a goal during our last birthday to publish more reporting on the climate catastrophe and give platforms to individuals from indigenous communities. We regrettably failed to do either, but we will redouble our efforts in the coming year by recruiting writers to cover these topics.
The left, however that may be defined, is incredibly atomized and scattered. This is evident within left or left-leaning media. In the next year, we plan to collaborate across more sites and cross-pollinate in ways that benefit all involved. We feel this will build some much-needed solidarity.
For example, Shadowproof already has a relationship with Truthout, where we republish each other’s articles. We have republished the work of Solitary Watch, which reports on solitary confinement and the dark underbelly of the criminal justice system. But we hope to do more through our website, newsletter, podcasts, YouTube, and social media accounts to support others engaged in this essential work.
Shadowproof was openly optimistic about the potential of grassroots movements to force socialist ideas into the Democratic presidential primary. Unfortunately, a combination of factors led to the demise of Sanders’ 2020 campaign, and in its place, a vacuum developed until George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police and Black Lives Matter uprisings intensified already-simmering rage and discontent toward political elites.
Additionally, we did not anticipate how the Democratic Party establishment, with help from Republicans, would coalesce around former Vice President Joe Biden, whose campaign was in shambles until the South Carolina primary. In retrospect, it represents a cautionary tale of what happens when grassroots movements invest their hopes and dreams in Democrats and the electoral process, which has never delivered justice.
From August to Election Day, we expect Biden and neoliberal Democrats will constantly lower our political expectations as they appeal to “Never Trump” Republicans, like former Ohio Governor John Kasich. It will constrain our discourse and pressure us to avoid certain journalism, but we have no patience for this anti-democratic impulse and will vigorously defy it.
If Biden somehow defeats Trump it will be Republicans and their corporate backers, who a Biden White House will serve—not liberal Democrats and certainly not any Democrats willing to meet with grassroots organizers.
Thankfully, Shadowproof finds wells of hope outside of the electoral process. In particular, anti-racist movements like Black Lives Matter, including the movement to abolish the prison industrial complex, have been hard at work building power and challenging oppressive norms over the last decade. We are seeing the fruits of that labor this summer.
We believe increased visibility and the impact of this organizing will radicalize segments of the American public and enable us to not only defend against fascism and white supremacy but also build a better world for all of us. We remain committed to covering this organizing as we have since we launched in 2015. At the same time, we are mindful of the history of racist backlashes to anti-racist organizing in the United States, and remain vigilant in the face of that possibility.
Neither a second Trump term nor a Biden presidency, which reveals what parts of the Trump project have become bipartisan political consensus, will fundamentally change what we do as an independent media organization.
We do not take any day for granted, and we are proud to still be here after five years.
It is exceptionally difficult to operate an independent media organization. And in a year where anywhere from 30,000 to 40,000 jobs in the media industry have been lost (many of them permanently), we recommit ourselves to curating and expanding spaces for dissenting voices, who push back against the corporate and political culture that consistently refines its methods of dominance and control.
Thank you again for supporting and reading Shadowproof. Onward to another five years.
The 10 most popular articles in Shadowproof’s 5th year were:
4. Republicans, Including A Trump Supporter, Funded Joe Biden’s Super PAC In February by Kevin Gosztola
7. I’m Still Sorry I Listened To Susan Sarandon During The 2016 Election by Kevin Gosztola
9. Street Medics See Cuba As A Model For COVID-19 Response In Vulnerable Communities by Devyn Springer
10. The Coronavirus Primaries Were Illegitimate Elections By Kevin Gosztola