Opinion: Independent media is worth your attention

From the irreverent Chapo Trap House to the investigative ProPublica, news outside the corporate-media bubble offers a better way to understand the world.


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Peyton Downing, Columnist

I’ve written about the dangers of media consolidation and the need for an independent media, but neglected to supply any strong examples of independent media.

I’m going to rectify that.

There’s a massive swath of independent media out there regarding nearly every single issue, yet with the 2020 election on the horizon it seems pertinent to give higher priority to important political outlets.

Before listing these, it’s important to note that these can be biased sources of information — relying solely on them for your information would be a poor decision. But just because something is biased doesn’t mean it should be ruled out — everything has a bias. 

What’s important is not how unbiased something is, but whether it can provide accurate sources and reporting that explains its bias.

Chapo Trap House is a leftist podcast that focuses on U.S. politics. Headed by a team of five that came into prominence during the 2016 presidential election, it is now the highest-earning Patreon creator, earning over $166,000 per month.

Chapo has also done a wide variety of interviews, ranging from many of the Democratic presidential-nomination candidates to academic researchers and writers such as Vivek Chibber.

While the podcast is incredibly popular, Chapo is not for everyone — the hosts can be crass, uncivil, and irreverent. But that is part of their appeal.

Independent media doing the job independent media should do is important to recognize.

While mainstream news can often be euphemistic and neutral in coverage, Chapo will present topics with full indignation that is warranted by ongoing events.

Some More News is a YouTube channel starring Cody Johnston, covering political and cultural events in the U.S. and online. While not as large or as influential as Chapo, the show is nevertheless a strong media outlet. It mimics the familiar presentation of TV news broadcasting while taking more liberties with its mix of humor and news reporting.

Its topics can range from Twitter memes about gun rights and 50 wild hogs to complete coverage of all the crimes President Trump has committed since his impeachment acquittal. Each show also comes with a list of all sources in its description, so if anything seems far-fetched audience members can go and look for more information themselves.

Sludge is an investigative outlet dedicated to uncovering money and conflicts of interest in U.S. politics. With sections dedicated to climate, health care, elections, and others, Sludge does incredibly hard-hitting reporting. All its funding comes from subscribers — it takes no advertisements or sponsorships. Any large donations are listed under its “about” page to ensure transparency.

These are just three of the independent media outlets floating in the ether. The investigative journalism nonprofit ProPublica is another good example.

Independent media doing the job independent media should do is important to recognize.

Looking into the history of contributors to an outlet or publicly available financial information is of key importance. If an outlet doesn’t have either of these readily available, you should be more careful in taking news from that given outlet.

Despite its cliché name, mediabiasfactcheck.com is good at its job. It gives a summary of where a given source lies on the political spectrum and how well it reports factually.

This is not to say that the mainstream media is terrible. For certain topics and information, the mainstream is an invaluable asset.

But it is important to acknowledge that it has its own biases and lapses of judgement and coverage. To best amend that issue as a viewer, you should try to familiarize yourself with several independent sources you can trust so you can have a more complete understanding of what is going on in today’s world.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.