At the end of each year, I write to our 30,000 Nation Associates–readers who make contributions to the magazine that provide nearly 20 percent of all the magazine’s revenue–reporting on the past year and what the magazine has accomplished as well as looking forward to the coming year.  I wanted to share my letter to Associates this year. And if you are so moved to contribute please click here.

Dear Nation Associate: 

I don’t know about you, but I find these are times that try progressives’ souls. On issue after issue–ending the war, the imperial presidency, health care, jobs, environment, unions–the public is overwhelmingly progressive and wants action. Yet, we remain bogged down in occupied Iraq; economic pain and dislocation are affecting millions; torture is condoned by the Bush Administration and its enablers; we export democracy abroad instead of rebuilding it at home; and too many Democrats (though not all) have forgotten their role in fighting for the voiceless, and for peace and justice.

At The Nation–where hope dies last–we believe it is in such times that our work, joined by allies like you, is more vital than ever.  And in 2007, thanks to your continuing support, The Nation had an important impact on our political debate and policies.

If you were one of the many supporters and friends who joined in on our conference call in December, you heard Nation correspondent and bestselling writer Jeremy Scahill talk about his ground-breaking reporting on the mercenary forces of Blackwater USA (and privatization’s radical assault on our democracy).  Jeremy’s reporting first appeared in a series of investigative articles in The Nation two years before the mainstream paid any attention to the issue, showing once again the essential role and expanding reach of The Nation and the importance of a strong and independent media.

When the story broke in September 2007, with Blackwater’s killing of twenty Iraqi civilians, major US and international news outlets had only one place to turn for information and insight: Jeremy Scahill and The Nation. In the course of one week, Jeremy appeared on the CBS Evening News, ABC World News, CNN, NPR’s Talk of the Nation, the Lehrer NewsHour, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, the BBC and dozens of other outlets. Jeremy also testified before several Congressional committees, including Henry Waxman’s Government Oversight Committee and was invited to brief key legislators and their staff. His reporting in The Nation shaped  ground-breaking legislation, introduced this November by Representative Jan Schakowsky, which abolishes the use of private security contractors in Iraq.

On the conference call, Jeremy provided expert insight on the metastasizing scandal and what military privatization means for our democracy. Many participants–phoning in from places ranging from the West Coast and the Deep South to London and Canada–asked what they could do to help spread the word. Some inspiring suggestions were given, many thought-provoking questions raised. This was our second conference call with Nation supporters–and we’ve already begun planning for future calls so that you too can have a chance to engage with some of our extraordinary writers and personalities. I look forward to having more of you join us on these calls. I always feel a deep and meaningful sense of community amongst all the listeners and participants. And it is precisely these conversations that independent media are meant to inspire–especially now, when mainstream corporate influence is threatening to silence the public’s diverse and dissenting voice.  Your passion and ideas are doubly appreciated and we welcome your suggestions for topics of discussion on future calls.

Looking ahead, it is even more vital that we keep The Nation‘s independent voice alive and well. That is why we’ve waged a tenacious, grassroots and transpartisan fight to roll back the grossly unfair postage rate hike which has saddled The Nation with a half a million dollar annual increase in postal costs. Our President Teresa Stack has done an extraordinary job in organizing a coalition of small independent publications, from left to right, in order to fight back. Her organizing work, and the groundswell of support from 100,000 citizens, helped us get a hearing in Congress. At the end of October, our Publisher Emeritus Victor Navasky testified before a Congressional subcommittee. His testimony was inspiring: “The impact of the new postal rate increase on the flow of ideas and opinions in America is likely to be significant. Precisely those magazines that devote the most space to public affairs — to covering in-depth events like the hearings today — are being put in serious jeopardy.” The hearing put the political momentum clearly on our side, and we are working hard with our new friends in Congress to craft a legislative solution that would roll back this radical upending of postal policy — all to help ensure a vibrant and diverse press for years to come.

Looking ahead to 2008, we need to continue to support “unembedded” reporters (those who aren’t beholden to any corporate media power) like Jeremy Scahill, Naomi Klein, Chris Hedges, John Nichols and Gary Younge, so that their debate and idea-shaping work reaches ever wider audiences. One of the newest “unembedded” writers joining us is Christopher Hayes, who became The Nation‘s  Washington Editor in November. (After 20 years, we wish our longtime DC Editor David Corn all the best as he sets off on new journalistic adventures.) Hayes has been reporting and writing on politics, economics, and labor for a wide variety of independent publications. I am excited about the fresh and distinctive perspective, intellectual curiosity, range and dynamism that he will bring to the Nation’s coverage of the capital at this critical time in our nation’s history. 

With the support made possible by Nation Associates, we’ve also undertaken some new initiatives–designed to deliver our message to a larger audience and strengthen and deepen our roots in the progressive community.

•We unveiled an exciting redesign aimed at making the magazine more spirited, accessible and readable to both new and longtime readers. Our bolder logo harkens back to mid-twentieth century incarnations of The Nation.

•We’re redesigning The Nation website–which now averages over 800,000 unique visitors per month–and adding new blogs, video features and more interactivity so as to connect more effectively with the Nation community.  One feature I hope Associates will contribute to is “Around the Nation,” our national online calendar which aspires to be the progressive calendar for events nationwide. Since the calendar is user-generated, we need your input!

•As an investment in building the next generation of dissenting, troublemaking, smart reporters, writers and readers, we’re continuing our successful Student Journalism Conferences. This past June, 150 student journalists from across the country came together in Washington DC for a day of exciting panels, discussions with editors, reporters, and cultural critics from The Nation and other independent publications. Our inaugural West Coast Student Conference is scheduled for January 26th and we’ve already gathered an exciting  team of diverse, provocative writers, bloggers, editors and investigative reporters to engage and educate the muckrakers of our future. 

•We set off to Alaska in July, for the tenth annual Nation Cruise. With 400 Nation cruisers on board, from all parts of the country (and a few from points around the world!), the panels and ad hoc sessions were rollicking, enlightening and engaging. But, for me, the highlight of the cruise was a memorable antiwar rally in Juneau, Alaska, organized by the local chapter of Veterans Against the War, to welcome The Nation to Alaska. The rally was held at Marine Park — a spectacular setting in which rainforest-covered mountains sloped down to meet the ocean. Hundreds of The Nation‘s Alaskan supporters gathered in the mist and rain to greet and listen to speakers and passengers, including Salt Lake City’s Mayor Rocky Anderson, and consumer crusader and former Presidential candidate Ralph Nader. At the end of the rally, Vets Against the War’s Phil Smith, in the spirit of generosity that defined our day in Juneau, gave me a contribution towards our postal-rate campaign. I will never forget that inspirational day in Juneau in which leaders and citizens from across the nation joined together to register their protest against the Bush Administration and its disastrous war, and found kinship through shared ideals and values that stretched all the way from New York City to Juneau, Alaska.

I believe that bold ideas in these next months and years will not come from the status quo press or inside-the-beltway politicians! That’s why we count on you–members of a growing Nation community committed to challenging our downsized politics of excluded alternatives. Like millions in this country, you understand that we can’t leave our future to wobbly politicians in Washington. You know that our country’s finest moments have come when political parties and leaders are pushed into action from outside by independent magazines and reporters. And it is the investments you’ve made–and we hope you’ll continue to make–in independent and honest journalism that have acted to keep our democracy resilient.

You have helped us grow in the past, and we are grateful. But it is support from partners like you which will be crucial in these next few years. We will never stop raising the tough and independent questions required of a free press in a democracy. Exposing and proposing. And now at this moment of unprecedented urgency as we fight the postal rate increase, we hope you might make an extra effort this year to help out with a year end donation to The Nation.

Your support has enabled us not only to survive for three centuries, but grow as a magazine that has made a unique and increasingly forceful contribution to our political, intellectual and cultural life. At whatever level your circumstances permit, you can help us make a difference. 

Yours sincerely and with thanks, 

Katrina vanden HeuvelPublisher and Editor