The Independent Media Institute (IMI) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to “strengthening and supporting independent journalism, and to improving the public’s access to independent information sources.”
IMI oversees two major programs, the larger of which is AlterNet, an online progressive news magazine that draws some 1.7 million readers per month.
IMI also administers the SPIN Project (Strategic Press Information Network), which provides leftist organizations with “accessible and affordable strategic communications consulting, training, coaching, networking opportunities and concrete tools” to help them “achieve their social justice goals.” Launched in 1997, the SPIN Project has trained leaders from more than 1,000 organizations, including: ACORN, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the American Friends Service Committee, the Brennan Center for Justice, the Center for Community Change, the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, Friends of the Earth, Global Exchange, the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride Coalition, the Florida League of Conservation Voters, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the League of Women Voters, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Organization for Women, San Francisco Physicians for Social Responsibility, Planned Parenthood, Public Citizen, the Rainforest Action Network, Refuse & Resist!, the Ruckus Society, the Service Employees International Union, the Sierra Club, and the Soros foundation Community Fellows.
Committed chiefly to fostering “social change,” the SPIN Project provides its clients with instruction on handling media relations and building peer networks between grassroots groups, policy advocates, and academics. Seeking also to help minorities face the challenges of living in an allegedly racist America, the SPIN Project states: “Armed with a critical analysis of racism in both mainstream and alternative media, and a means to disseminate the findings, we can support leaders of color in more effective media work.”
At one time, IMI oversaw the now-defunct AlterNet Syndication, which provided independent news content to approximately 150 weekly newspaper and Internet customers.
The Executive Editor of IMI is Don Hazen, former publisher of the socialist magazine Mother Jones. In the late 1990s Hazen organized the Media & Democracy Congresses, which sought to merge progressive activism with alternative media. Prior to that, he helped manage the political campaigns of New York City Democrats Ruth Messinger and David Dinkins.
In December 2003, IMI petitioned the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to disallow the Fox News Channel’s trademark phrase “Fair & Balanced,” on grounds that it was “entirely mis-descriptive,” and “false and misleading.” IMI was joined in this effort by MoveOn, which at the time was hosting national house party viewings of Robert Greenwald’s film Outfoxed, a documentary critical of Fox News. After losing some early motions in the case, IMI eventually withdrew its petition.
IMI has received funding from the Akonadi Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Arca Foundation, the Bioneers Foundation, the Bloome Foundation, the Branscomb Family Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Cloud Mountain Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Funding Exchange, the Glaser Progress Foundation, the McKay Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the New York Community Trust, the New York Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Park Foundation, the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, the RSF Global Community Fund, the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy, the Surdna Foundation, the Threshold Foundation, the Town Creek Foundation, the Wallace Global Fund, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Working Assets Grantmaking Fund of the Tides Foundation.