Ridgeway began his career as a contributor to The New Republic, Ramparts, and The Wall Street Journal. Later, he was co-founder and editor of the political newsletters Mayday, Hard Times and The Elements.
Ridgeway became nationally known when he revealed in The New Republic that General Motors had hired private detectives to tail consumer advocate Ralph Nader in an attempt to dig up information that might discredit him (Nader was behind litigation which challenged the safety of the Chevrolet Corvair). Ridgeway's revelations of the company's snooping and dirty tricks prompted a Senate subcommittee led by Senator Abraham Ribicoff to summon James Roche, president of GM, to explain his company's harassment — and apologize. The incident catapulted auto safety into the public spotlight and helped send Nader's book, Unsafe at Any Speed (1965), to the top of the bestseller lists.
He served as Washington correspondent for The Village Voice where he worked from the mid-1970s until April 2006. Following his departure from the Voice, Ridgeway was hired by Mother Jones to run its Washington DC bureau. On April 13, 2006's Democracy Now! broadcast, Ridgeway told host Amy Goodman that Michael Lacey, the executive editor of the Voice, "killed my column, and he asked me to submit ideas for articles to him one by one, which I did, and which he either ignored or turned down, except in one case...they won't say that I'm fired. I'm supposedly laid off." 
Books, films and periodical credits
Ridgeway is the author and/or editor of twenty books, including The Closed Corporation: American Universities in Crisis, The Politics of Ecology, and, more recently, The 5 Unanswered Questions About 9/11: What the 9/11 Commission Report Failed to Tell Us, The Haiti Files: Decoding the Crisis, Yugoslavia's Ethnic Nightmare (a collection co-edited with Jasminka Udovicki), A Pocket Guide to Environmental Bad Guys (with Jeffrey St. Clair), and Blood in the Face: The Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads, the Rise of a New White Culture. He wrote the text for Red Light: Inside the Sex Industry, with photographs by Sylvia Plachy. Ridgeway co-directed the companion film Blood in the Face, as well as Feed, a documentary on the 1992 presidential campaign.
His articles have appeared in The New York Review of Books, PARADE, Harper's, The Nation, Dollars & Sense,The Economist, The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal and other magazines and newspapers.
- "The Beginnings". Nader.org website. 2004. Retrieved 2006-04-20.
- Goodman, Amy (2006). "Village Voice Shakeup: Top Investigative Journalist Fired, Prize Winning Writers Resign Following Merger with New Times Media,". Democracy Now website. Retrieved 2006-04-20.
- "Title list for basic search of author: Ridgeway, James". Library of Congress Online Catalogue. Retrieved 2006-04-20.
- Feed (1992) at the Internet Movie Database
- Ridgeway, James (September/October 1999). "Hijacking the Future: How Wall Street Is Taking Over Workers' Pensions". Dollars & Sense. Retrieved 2009-05-22.
- "Author James Ridgeway". Seven Stories Press Web site. Retrieved 2006-04-20.
- Works by or about James Ridgeway in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- "Sweet Subpoena: Nine Investigations That Could Spice Up the Next Congress", Mother Jones, September/October 2006.
- Ridgewayng.com: Original reporting. News video collaborations between Ridgeway and Alicia Ng. Retrieved April 13, 2006.
- "Fear of Flying: Whistle-blowers say the FAA ignored a decade of pre–9-11" (15 February 2005)
- eText of Politics of Ecology
- 'VV' Staff Protests Ridgeway's Firing; Management Doesn't Care
- Village Voice Shakeup: Top Investigative Journalist Fired, Prize-Winning Writers Resign Following Merger with New Times Media Listen in RealPlayer. Download in MP3. Watch in 128K RealPlayer Video stream. Read Transcript. Host Amy Goodman interviews current and former staff James Ridgeway, Nat Hentoff, Tom Robbins, Sydney Schanberg and two reporters Mark Jacobson and Tim Redmond.
- Blog unsilentgeneration.com James Ridgeway