The newsletter was established in 1994 by the Washington DC-based investigative reporter Ken Silverstein. He was soon joined by the journalists Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St Clair. In 1996 Silverstein left the publication and Cockburn and St Clair have since been co-editors.
Running six to eight pages in length, the Counterpunch newsletter publishes primarily commentaries of Cockburn and St Clair with a regular contributions by others. It is noted for its highly critical coverage of both Democratic and Republican politicians and its extensive reporting of environmental and trade union issues. Counterpunch carries on the tradition of muckraking journalism of earlier investigative journalists such as I.F. Stone and George Seldes.
Since coming online in 1998, the Counterpunch website has become one of the most frequently-visited radical sites on the Internet. It offers a large quantity of material not published in the newsletter; however, the newsletter continues to publish commentaries by St Clair and Cockburn which is not published on the web. The website is maintained on the basis of revenues generated by the newsletter.
Notable contributors to Counterpunch have included Robert Fisk, the late Edward Said, and Alexander Cockburn's two brothers, Andrew and Patrick, both of whom write on the Middle East, Iraq in particular.