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After more than 35 years at In These Times, I am moving on. When I began in October 1986, In These Times correspondents across Latin America were hard at work helping break the story of the Iran-Contra Affair. Because of the dogged efforts of independent journalists, those in power were held accountable. Eleven Reagan administration officials were charged, including Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger.
Perhaps we will always have to contend with reactionary nationalism, corporate greed and militarism, which too often go unchallenged. Yet, those who dream of a just and viable future for our country — and our planet — need an alternative to complacent apologetics if we are to evolve to a more complete social democracy.
A ferment is brewing in America’s working classes, who are looking for signs of salvation under the strain of growing inequality and economic insecurity. They deserve independent, movement-led journalism that responds to injustice and guides society toward the common good. Progressive ideas once deemed impractical (but long championed by In These Times) are entering the mainstream, once lone voices of sanity are now national players, democratic socialists have forced their way into the Democratic party.
These gains have also fueled a backlash from the Democratic corporate donor class, making the independent reporting championed by In These Times more important than ever. Failure is not an option, as the alternative — a consolidation of power under right-wing extremists and rising neo-fascists — is untenable.
In the coming year, I will be cheering on the staff of In These Times as I split my focus across two exciting projects. First, I will be working at New Consensus, a think tank, with two of the coauthors of the Green New Deal, Zack Exley and Saikat Chakrabarti. Their forthcoming Climate Emergency Playbook will detail how the federal government can work with corporations, states and localities to get to net zero carbon emissions in 10 years and at the same time create a sustainable domestic economy that provides a quality life to all.
My second project will be a return to my roots. I was born and raised in a rural county in MidMissouri. I got my start in journalism as a feature writer, Saturday reporter and photographer at my hometown daily, the Fulton Sun. Today, rural America, by and large, has become a news desert. Once reliably blue counties are now deep red. In the coming months, I’ll be launching an innovative nonprofit network of state-based media organizations, written by and serving the people of rural and small-town America.
When Jimmy Weinstein, In These Times founding editor & publisher, stepped down in May 1999, he passed the editor’s pen to me. I wrote then:
“[In These Times will continue to support] policy initiatives and public officials, which if not ideal, are politically preferable. … Compromise is part of politics; the question is not if, but when, to do so. What In These Times won’t compromise is our faith in the democratic ideal. We will strive to be a catalyst for a democratic movement that will strike a balance between celebrating our differences and stressing our commonalities. It’s not a question of one or the other.”
Vibrant, independent media like In These Times breathes life into movements, and this magazine goes to press each month thanks to generous readers like you, who contribute above and beyond the cost of their subscription, and who share collective responsibility for helping publish this magazine. I have no doubt that, with your support, In These Times, under the leadership of Christopher Hass, Jessica Stites and the rest of the staff, will continue to promote an alternative to the corporate, capitalist worldview amplified by for-profit media, and to serve movements for social, economic, environmental and racial justice.
In These Times Editor & Publisher,
October 1986 – April 2022
In this new book, longtime organizers and movement educators Mariame Kaba and Kelly Hayes examine the political lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath, including the convergence of mass protest and mass formations of mutual aid. Let This Radicalize You answers the urgent question: What fuels and sustains activism and organizing when it feels like our worlds are collapsing?
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Joel Bleifuss, a former director of the Peace Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is the editor & publisher of In These Times, where he has worked since October 1986.