Independent media is any news source that's not under the control of a media conglomerate. In the US, five companies control a large majority of the information that we see: CBS Corporation (formerly Viacom; they own everything from Nickelodeon to CNET to Dreamworks to Comedy Central to Katie Couric), Disney (they own everything from ABC to ESPN), News Corp (everything from Faux News to MySpace to the Dow Jones), Time Warner (everything from HBO to CNN to Popular Science), and Comcast/GE (they each own about half of NBC Universal). The bad thing about this situation is that these are hugely powerful corporations controlling a majority of the political and social information reaching Americans, meaning that if these corporations have agendas (which they clearly do for instance, GE is one of the nation's largest military industrial companies and coal turbine producers and") then the media must first filter through that bias before it reaches millions of people. Do you ever wonder why there's rarely any substance on networks like CNN? Why things like corporate crime or the prison problem or the military industrial complex are rarely brought up in the mainstream media? Or why investigative journalism is so rare these days? This is it!
So the importance of independent media is to break free from those chains. Once massive corporations with vested interests aren't controlling the flow of information, journalists are free to do their thing again. And do it they do. Here's the list:
Mother Jones is a great magazine that has a lot of honest, progressive, and investigative journalism (that you can get for free online!). If you read Time or Newsweek now, you probably should be reading Mother Jones.
Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman is a great daily news show, with a great website that includes a blog and the show for free, from Pacifica that also broadcasts on many radio and TV stations and has a podcast. Goodman reads the headlines and then interviews one or two or three guests for an hour each day. She frequently highlights dissenters or grassroots organizers or other interesting guests that you won't see on the nightly news.
Pacifica itself is a progressive radio network that has over 100 affiliate stations across the country.
1360 AM in the greater Philadelphia area, while we're on the subject of radio, has a slate of interesting progressive shows, including a rare election integrity show.
Seven Stories Press is a book publisher that "publishes works of the imagination and political titles by voices of conscience." They have published Kurt Vonnegut, David Swanson, Howard Zinn, Ralph Nader, Mike Gravel, and many other people worth listening to.
Powell's Books is an independent bookstore chain in Portland, Oregon that also has a strong presence online. Think of it as a better alternative to Amazon.
Current TV is cable channel and website (co-founded and partially owned by Al Gore, iirc) that features a lot of fluff and a lot of great journalism. They're very hip, although don't let that turn you off. They also offer some decent video podcasts. And remember those journalists captured by North Korea? Just as a side note, those people worked for Current. They've got a lot of interesting stuff, including a system on their website where you can vote for the best viewer created content to get on TV.
The Real News Network is a blossoming online video news operation that is gathering journalists and money in order to turn into a kind of investigative, in depth TV news network. They've got deals worked out with McClatchy and TiVo so far, and they're making great progress. For now, you can check them out at their website and Youtube (and DONATE if you want to see a quality news network!).
Alternet is an online news site that has all of the essentials on their list of tabs politics, sex, water" and more, of course. They've got lots of progressive and thought-provoking content and I highly recommend them.
OpEdNews is a website similar to Daily Kos, in that the content is mostly created by readers, but they are much more free in their speech and news-site-like. It can sometimes be tough to sift through the mediocre stuff to get to the great stuff, but it is there.
Mother Earth News is one of the best magazines out there. It's a combination of environmental reporting and quality DIY/homesteading stuff. It is absolutely the best environmental magazine out there, in my opinion, and essential reading for anyone trying to live more sustainably and free from the iron grip of corporations. Their website is a treasure trove, as well.
The Atlantic Yards Report is a single investigative project that focuses on a nearly $5 billion development in Brooklyn.
BoingBoing.net is a good source for privacy and technology news.