No PR spin, no advertising and no corporate agenda - sites that uphold the lost art of journalism.

In the last twenty years, we have become increasingly aware of the fact that news, as reported on television, in our newspapers and on many news websites, is not as straightforward or ingenuous as it may at first seem.

Whether it's the way in which our journalists report on foreign events - with western eyes, western preconceptions and western interests; the way that journalists are increasingly reliant on press releases, sent out by those who wish to manipulate the news in their favour; or the way that advertising increasingly encroaches on editorial decisions and journalistic integrity. These issues aside, it is clear that newspapers and news channels are not as independent or unbiased as they often claim to be, reflecting, as they do, the views and agenda of the person, corporation or government that owns and runs them.

So how do we, as readers, get closer to the truth? One unaffected by advertising, pr, bias or a profit/politically-driven program? While no reporting is entirely without an agenda, the birth of citizen journalist sites, sites that look to undermine or mock traditional media and sites that try to reveal a hidden truth are a great place to start. Here are some of our favourites.

1. AlterNet. A project of the non-profit Independent Media Institute, with a progressive liberal stance, AlterNet aims to inspire action and advocacy on the environment, human rights, civil liberties, social justice, media, health care issues and more by providing independent news stories, hard-hitting critiques of policies, investigative reports and expert analysis. The content tackles stereotypes, prejudice and inequality and turns the coin on contentious issues, offering insight and new perspectives on persistent social problems.

2. Media Lens. Launched in 2001 by David Edwards and David Cromwell, Media Lens aims to challenge the way in which it sees news and commentary being ‘filtered’ by the media’s profit-orientation and by dependence on advertisers, parent companies, wealthy owners and official news sources. For example, if Mubarak’s regime is a brutal military dictorship and the Egyptian people are intent on removing him, where does the fact the United States supports the tyranny with around $1.3 billion in military ‘aid’ fit into the story?

3. Democracy Now! Set up in protest against the corporate media consolidation, which it identifies as having taken place since the early eighties, Democracy Now! aims to give access to people and perspectives rarely heard in the U.S corporate-sponsored media, including: independent and international journalists, ordinary people from around the world who are directly affected by U.S. foreign policy, grassroots leaders and peace activists, artists, academics and independent analysts. Watch out for the real debates between radically opposing spokespeople.

4. The Onion. The satirical newspaper parody publication The Onion was founded in 1988. Since its move online in the late 1990s it has become very popular. The Onion takes reality and twists it just enough to reveal the absurdity within the mainstream media. It's clever, extremely funny and hyper-aware, playing on way the news has become another branch of the entertainment industry.

5. The Real News Network (TRNN). Founded in 2007 by the Canadian journalist and filmmaker, Paul Jay, TRNN is a television news and documentary network funded by donations from viewers, rather than government or corporation funding. Working in opposition to the mainstream media, which it identifies as being dominated by corporate interest, PR and the viewpoint of partisan political elites, it also acknowledges that it too will be affected by bias.

6. Truth dig. Founded in 2003 by entrepreneur Zuade Kaufman and journalist Robert Sheer, Truthdig is a left-leaning web magazine that explores major ‘digs’, led by authorities in their fields, who write articles on contemporary, often controversial topics, such as religion, climate change and immigration to name a few.

7. This Can’t Be Happening. Another site, set up by journalists, with the goal of telling it like it is. This Can’t Be Happening is not backed up by corporate advertising or government grants, but by its readers and reports and writes all the pieces featured itself. From exposing American spies to questioning why there is one rule for foreign consulates in the US and another for US consulates abroad, This Can’t Be Happening questions the assumed – it’s what journalist used to do as a matter of course.

More sites that support the journalistic cause:

• Human Rights Watch
• Wide Shut
• Z Communications www.
• Axis of Logic
• Truth Out

Emily Jenkinson and Garan Holcombe

22 February 2011