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Alternative Media Guide

What is the Alternative Press?

A few definitions:

No one term adequately describes all of the various types of publications and sources of information that fall outside of the mainstream: independent, dissident, radical, underground, subversive, non-corporate, progressive, grassroots, activist, anarchist, small, alternative...

Similarly, no one definition adequately describes all of the publications or types of publications included when one refers to the alternative press. Often, the alternative press is defined by describing what it is not: it is not mainstream or corporate-owned, for example. This of course begs the questions: what is mainstream? and what constitutes a corporate-owned publication? Other criteria used to describe the alternative press include a publication's content, its means of production and ownership, whether or not a publication seeks social or political change, and whether or not the publication is intended to generate a profit.

Or perhaps the alternative media (to paraphrase Amy and David Goodman describing Democracy Now!) represent and give voice to the mainstream who are ignored by the mainstream media.

The excerpts below represent just a small sample of the various definitions and descriptions of the alternative press. Included as well are a couple of excerpts pertaining to the dissident and radical press which, depending on the definition used, may also be considered alternative.

Alternative, small, independent, radical, dissident... a few excerpts (see the bibliography below for complete citations):

Charles Willett, founder of Counterpoise and author of numerous articles on the alternative press, suggests that the Alternative Press expresses "whatever ideas lie beyond the pale, whatever is not accepted, not permitted, not available in the corporate and government mainstream" (1999).

Nancy Kranich suggests that "alternative" is the term "most apt" to describe small and independent publishers since these publishers "counterbalance the corporate media" (2000).

Debates about the differences between mainstream and alternative media often see mainstream media as "maximizing audiences by appealing to safe, conventional formulas" and alternative media as "foregoing the comfortable, depoliticizing formulas to advocate programs of social changel" (Hamilton 358).

U of T Faculty of Information Studies Professor Juris Dilevko and York University librarian Kalina Grewal (1997), in their study of academic library collections of socio-political journals, distinguish between corporate and non-corporate owned publications: "corporate, for-profit publishing entities support a dominant social paradigm" whereas "smaller, independent publishers, usually non-profits challenge the assumptions of the sataus-quo" (362).

In their study, a journal was considered to be published by a corporate publisher if that publisher published more than one journal title and if the title was "subject to an auditing of its circulation figures by a recognized auditing agency..." (363). Since auditing figures are used to lure and reassure advertisers, the use of auditors suggests that a title is intended to earn profit for its owners (363).

Chris Atton, lecturer and scholar of alternative media, draws attention to Michael Traber's notion of alternative media: "Traber argues that the conventions of the mass media marginalize the role ot the ‘simple man and women,' foregrounding instead the rich, the powerful and the glamourous" (52). The Alternative media, on the other hand, have as their primary aim social and political action: "to change towards a more equitable social, cultural and economic whole in which the individual is not reduced to an object... but is able to find fulfillment as a total human being" (52).

Moreover, Atton notes how Traber identifies two broad areas of the alternative press: the "advocacy press" (which presents "alternative social actors" (the poor, the oppressed, the maginalized, etc) as the "main subjects of the news), and the "grassroonts press" (which is "produced by the people whose concerns it represents, giving it a position of engagement and direct participation") (52).

Professor of Journalism Rodger Streitmatter, consistent with the definition of dissidence (thinking or feeling differently; disagreeing; differing), defines the dissident press as publications that offer "views that differ from those of the conventional press" (xi). Moreover, to warrant inclusion in his book on the history of the dissident press, a publication "not only had to offer a differing view of society but also had to seek to change society in some discernable way" (xi).

John D.H. Downing defines radical media as media that is "generally small-scale and... that expresses an alternative vision to hegemonic policies, priorities and perspectives" (v). However, he qualifies this definition by acknowledging that it is almost oxymoronic to simply speak of "alternative media" because "everthing, at some point, is alternative to something else" (ix). The extra designation radical, he contends, helps "firm up the definition of alternative media" (ix). He then offers a fairly lenghty definition of what differentiates radical alternative media from more conventional, mainstream media. I will mention only one of his ten points: radical alternative media serve "to express opposition vertically from subordinate quarters directly at the power structure and against its behavior;" and "to build support, solidarity, and networking laterally against policies or even against the very survival of the power structure" (xi).

jl 2003.

Bibliography (sources for the excerpts above):

Atton, Chris. "A Reassessment of the Alternative Press." Media, Culture & Society 21 (1999): 51 - 76.

Dilevko, Juris and Kalina Grewal. "A New Approach to Collection Bias in Academic Libraries: The Extent of Corporate Control in Journal Holdings." Library & Information Science Research 19.4 (1997): 359 - 85.

Downing, John. Radical Media: Rebellious Communication and Social Movements. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, c2001.

Hamilton, J. "Alternative Media: Conceptual Difficulties, Critical Possibilities." Journal of Communication Inquiry 24.4 (October 2000): 357 - 78.

Kranich, Nancy. "A Question of Balance: The Role of Libraries in Providing Alternatives to the Mainstream Media." Collection Building 19.3 (2000): 85 - 90.

Streitmatter, Rodger. Voices of Revolution: The Dissident Press in America. New York: Columbia UP, 2001.

Willet, Charles. "The State of Alternative Publishing in America: Issues and Implications for Libraries." Counterpoise 3.1 (January 1999): 14 - .

Want to read more? (updated October 2013)

Albert, Michael. "What Makes Alternative Media Alternative?" (originally published in Z Magazine October 1997).

Atkinson, Joshua D. Alternative Media and Politics of Resistance: A Communication Perspective. P 96 .A44 A85 2010

Atton, Chris. Alternative Media. London: Sage, 2002. P 96 .A442 A88 2002

Borjesson, Kristina. Into The Buzzsaw: Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of a Free Press. Amherst, N.Y. : Prometheus Books, 2002. PN 4738 .I58 2002

Chomsky, Noam. "What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream." (originally pubilshed in Z Magazine October 1997)

Downing, John, ed. Encyclopedia of Social Movement Media. Thousand Oaks, Calif. : SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011. P 96 .A44 E53 2011 REF

Forde, Susan. Challenging the News: The Journalism of Alternative and Community Media. Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. PN 4784 .C615 F67 2011

Jensen, Carl. Censored. Chapel Hill, NC: Shelburne Press, c1993- . Library has 2001, 2003-13. Most recent: PN 4888 .P6 C45 2013.

Kozolanka, Kirsten. Alternative Media in Canada. Vancouver : UBC Press, c2012. P 96 .A442 C3 2012

Lievrouw, Leah A. Alternative and Activist New Media. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2011. P 95.8 .L54 2011

McChesney, Robert W. The Problem of the Media: U.S. Communication Politics in the Twenty-first Century. New York: Monthly Review Press, c2004. P 95.82 .U6 M378 2004

---. Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, c1999. P 95.82 .U6 M38 1999

McMillian, John Campbell. Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America. New York : Oxford University Press, 2011. PN 4888 .U5 M35 2011

Nesbitt-Larking, Paul W. Politics, Society, and the Media: Canadian Perspectives. 2nd ed. Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview Press, 2007. P 95.82 .C3 N47 2007

>> more about the alternative press: The Alternative Press and Academic Libraries: A Selected Bibliography


Alternative Media Guide

Web Resources:

Progressive and independent Resources
Conservative Resources

Looking for independent Canadian media?
There are many Canadian resources included in the list below, and many more at, a directoy of non-corporate journalism created by the Media Alliance for New Activism (MANA is currently without funding and is not updating the directory).

Suggest a site to be added to this list.

Progressive and independent news, opinion, investigative reporting, media analysis and more!

Not-for-profit magazine concerned about the erosion of our physical and cultural environments by commercial forces. Published by the Media Foundation.

Alternative Press Center: Directory of Periodicals
Long list of links to Alternative sources of information (from Annotations -- A Guide to the Independent Critical Press).

Alternative Media Task Force,
A subgroup of the American Library Association's Social Responsibilities Round Table working to promote the acquisition and use of alternative information resources in libraries.

Alternatives in Print,
Online directory of alternative periodicals and book publishers (combines and replaces Annotations, a directory of periodicals published by the Alternative Press Center, and Alternative Publishers of Books in North America (APBNA), a directory of publishers updated every two years by Byron Anderson).

Alternatives Magazine,
"Resources for Cultural Creativity.",
Online magazine providing a mix of news, opinion and investigative journalism; a project of the Indepdendent Media Institute.

Association of Alternative Newsmedia,
A diverse group of 120 alternative news organizations covering every major metropolitan area and other less-populated regions of North America.

The Argosy,
"Mount Allison's Independent Student Newspaper."

Broken Pencil,
Website and print magazine dedicated to underground culture and the independent arts. Reprints of articles from the alternative press and reviews of zines, books, websites, videos, and artworks.,
Headlines, news, and commentary for a geographically-diverse, politically-savvy, pro-democracy, anti-hypocrisy web audience.

Canadian Dimension,
A forum for debate, "where red meets green, feminists take on socialists...". Plus reviews of books, films, web sites, CDs, and videos.

CMAQ: Centre for Media Alternative - Quebec,
"A physical meeting point and a virtual platform for independent and alternative information."

Columbia Journalism Review (CJR),
See the 2003 September/October issue for a special report on Alterntive media.

Common Dreams: NewsCenter,
"Breaking news & views for the progressive community."

"A quarterly review journal for the alternative press."  Site appears to be inactive (2013).,
Ceased publication in 2008.  Links and some older material still accessible. 

Democracy Now!
A national (U.S), daily, independent, news program hosted by journalists Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez. Site includes searchable and browsable archive of past shows.

DeSmog Canada,
DeSmog Canada seeks to provide "a credible forum for constructive, engaged public conversations about important issues facing Canada." 

The Dominion,
Canadian monthly paper that "aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles." 

Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting,
National (U.S.) non-profit media watch group offering criticism of media bias and censorship.  Publishes Extra, a magazine of media criticism.

Free Press,
A nonpartisan organization "advocating for universal and affordable Internet access, diverse media ownership, vibrant public media and quality journalism." Launched in December 2002 by Robert McChesney in collaboration with John Nichols and Josh Silver. See also: the National Conference on Media Reform site.,
A directory of non-corporate journalism in Canada. Created by MANA (the Media Alliance for New Activism).

Independent Media Center (IMC),
"Indymedia is a collective of independent media organizations and hundreds of journalists offering grassroots, non-corporate coverage. Indymedia is a democratic media outlet for the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate tellings of truth." Established by independent and alternative media organizations and activists in 1999 to provide grassroots coverage of the WTO protests in Seattle.

Information for Social Change,
Activist organisation that examines issues of censorship, freedom and ethics amongst library and information workers.

In These Times,
News, opinion, investigative reporting and cultural criticism with coverage of the labor movement, environment, feminism, grassroots politics, minority communities and the media.

Inter Press Service,
From the IPS mission: acts "as a communication channel that privileges the voices and the concerns of the poorest and creates a climate of understanding, accountability and participation around development, promoting a new international information order between the South and the North."

Canadian, US, UK, and French news, links to alternative news sources and more.

Media Matters for America,
A "not-for-profit progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media."

"A UK-based media-watch project analysing mainstream media bias."

Moncton Free Press/Presse Libre de Moncton,
Bilingual, community-run publication for the greater Moncton (New Brunswick) area. Aims to "present the voices which are too often absent or ignored in the traditional media" and to cover local, provincial, national and international news and issues.

Monthly Review,
"An independent socialist magazine."

Mother Jones,
"A nonprofit news organization that specializes in investigative, political, and social justice reporting."

The Nation,
Critical discussions of social and political issues.

National Conference on Media Reform,
Includes A-V downloads, links to blog and press coverage, and more. See also: Free Press (details above)

NB Media Co-op,
Member-funder province-wide (New Brunswick) independent news website. Launched 3 August 2009.

New Internationalist,
A communications co-operative reporting on issues of world poverty and inequality.

New Left Review,
NLR "analyses world politics, the global economy, state powers and protest movements; contemporary social theory, history and philosophy; cinema, literature, heterodox art and aesthetics."

New Pages: Alternatives in print and media,
A portal to independents news, "information and guides to literary magazines, independent publishers, creative writing programs, independent bookstores, alternative periodicals, independent record labels, alternative newsweeklies and more.", is a network of people and organizations "working to safeguard the possibilities of the open Internet."

Our Times,
"Canada's Independent Labour Magazine"

The Progressive,
A monthly magazine of "investigative reporting, political commentary, cultural coverage, activism, interviews, poetry, and humor."

Progressive Librarian,
Articles, book reviews, bibliographies, reports and documents that explore progressive perspectives on librarianship and information issues.

Progressive Review,
First published in 1964 and "one of the oldest alternative journals in America."  Edited by Sam Smith. 

Project Censored,
"The news that didn't make the news." Explores censorship and publicizes un- or under-reported stories. Includes lists of links to independent news sources.

PR Watch (The Center for Media and Democracy),
CMD is national, non-profit watchdog organization "investigating and exposing the undue influence of corporations and front groups on public policy, including PR campaigns, lobbying, and electioneering.",
A registered not-for-profit organization publishing news, opinion, podcasts and more.

The Real News,
Viewer-supported and non-profit television news and documentary network providing independent journalism.

Social Responsibilities Round Table,
A unit of the American Library Association working to make ALA more democratic and to establish progressive priorities for the Association and the profession.

Straight Goods,
Aims to be "Canada's independent, progressive media outlet of record."

One of Canada’s longest-publishing alternative journals. Focuses on Canadian politics, pop culture and the arts.

The Tyee,
Independent B.C. daily offering news, views and investigative reporting. Focus is on British Columbia.

A digest of independent ideas and alternative culture. 

Z Magazine,
"Independent monthly magazine dedicated to resisting injustice, defending against repression, and creating liberty."

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Conservative News and Media Analysis (section in progress):

Accuracy in Media,
Aims to set "the record straight on important issues that have received slanted coverage". Includes links to conservative columnists, conservative organizations, news, think tanks, and more.

The American Spectator,

The Conservative Voice,
News and opnion from over 100 columnists.

CNSNews. com,
"The right news. Right now." A division of the Media Research Centre (see below).

The Media Research Centre,
MRC's mission is "to bring balance and responsibility to the news media." Includes links to organizations that "help expose or counter liberal media bias in the mainstream press."

National Review,

The Patriot Post,
"The Internet's Journal of Record for the conservative revolution."

Suppressed News,

The Weekly Standard,

web resources
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