Cultural Drivers – Expert Blogs and Long Form Articles (There’s no official ranking, other than readership, but here’s my sense of things. Adapted from Penn State RCL)
New York Times – Opinions It’s really worth looking through the Columnist, Editorials, and Op-Ed links. At the very least, it’d be worth knowing the names of the columnists, as these figures crop up all over the place.
The Atlantic Excellent discussion of a wide variety of contemporary issues, with authors across the (mainstream) political spectrum.
Slate Online-only publication, similar in breadth to The Atlantic. Varied authorial perspective, although left-leaning positions are more frequent.
The New Yorker While some articles certainly highlight life in New York City, it also features far reaching articles, especially in the news, culture, and politics sections. Left leaning.
The Economist British publication. Although the articles are at times a bit shorter than some of the others listed here, it’s a very accessible international perspective. The Spectator is similar, although more uniquely British in worldview.
TED Short video presentations from experts on a variety of topics. The TED conferences that produce these videos are especially popular with early adopters, innovators, futurists, and people who just like learning things. While some presentations at local TED gatherings can be more pop-science/pop-culture in tone, the national and international conferences feature some of the world’s foremost thinkers.
Grantland is an unusual hybrid source, addressing both pop culture and sports—and sometimes together. Brought to you by Bill Simmons and a host of other writers. Update: ESPN has announced that they’re closing Grantland (Nov 2015).
Quartz Covers news in a way that often doesn’t feel like news–a fresh perspective. In addition to news, lots of other moderate length and long-form articles on contemporary issues, backed by solid reasoning and research. (Great for brainstorming topics!)
Aeon Magazine I’m still getting a sense of this one—it’s new, and has more than the standard fare—but so far it covers a really interesting set of topics, and from strong writers. It’s take on “ideas and culture” may be socially progressive, but at times this seems to be in the service of more conservative principles. Worth a browse.
Smithsonian Magazine Yes, they do more than museums. From the site: “Smithsonian magazine is a monthly magazine created for modern, well-rounded individuals with diverse interests. It chronicles the arts, history, sciences and popular culture of the times.”
National Geographic Perhaps the most well known long form source in America, paired with outstanding photography. While the online version
contains short pieces, these are in addition to the classic longer NatGeo articles.
Harpers covers culture, politics, and literature. Well established and respected. (It’s the oldest general interest magazine in America!)
Pro Publica covers a variety of environment, education, health, and politics topics, driven by strong investigative journalism. So far as I can tell, it’s unusually balanced and unbiased in its treatment. (Often targets those in power who abuse it, across the political spectrum.)
Chronicle of Higher Education does what its name says, and is a must-read for anyone looking to understand current trends in academia.
Vanity Fair – Politics Lots of pop culture elsewhere on the site, but also some great long form articles on contemporary cultural issues.
Wired mostly contains shorter tech-driven articles, but also sometimes has some nice long form pieces.
Outside mostly contains shorter outdoor and adventure sports articles, but has a nice blog (Dispatches) and some long form articles.
Rolling Stone contains plenty of music and pop culture discussion, to be sure, but also some news and commentary within a civic and political framework. (Update: After the exit of Matt Taibbi in 2014, the commentary is now exclusively left/progressive)
The Root is, according to the site, “the leading online source of news and commentary from an African-American perspective.” Along with Slate, it’s a Washington Post commodity.
Guernica is “a magazine of art and politics.” It contains some interesting long form cultural commentary pieces.
Salon features a blend of politics and entertainment commentary. Shorter pieces, but still sometimes involved in serious conversations.
Lapham’s Quarterly connects current practices with historical context, often by accompanying a long excerpt from a historical source with a contemporary application. It’s unlike anything else out there.
News and Commentary Journals
Huffington Post If you want to check out news and commentary from the left.
The Nation Ditto
The New Republic Ditto
The Progressive Ditto
Jacobin Liberal, non-Democrat (Radical Leftist)
Mother Jones Liberal, non-Democrat (Radical Leftist)
The New Inquiry Liberal, non-Democrat (neo-Marxist)
The National Review If you want to check out news and commentary from the right.
The Weekly Standard Ditto
American Spectator Ditto
National Affairs Ditto
Reason Magazine Conservative, non-Republican (Libertarian)
First Things Conservative, non-Republican (Classical Liberal)
Public Discourse Conservative, non-Republican (Social Conservative)
American Interest Middle of the road
Politico Middle of the road-ish