Alternative Media Guide
What is the Alternative Press:Find Books and Audio-Visual Materials: Find Articles and Reviews:
- Use a Journal Index to find articles on a given topic.
- A select list of resources available on the Web.
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.
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).
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?
Albet, Michael. "What Makes Alternative Media Alternative?" ZMag. <http://www.zmag.org/whatmakesalti.htm> Accessed 24 February 2003.
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: From a talk at Z Media Institute, June 1997." ZMagazine <http://www.zmag.org/zmag/articles/chomoct97.htm> Accessed 24 February 2003.
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
Nesbitt-Larking, Paul W. Politics, Society, and the Media: Canadian Perspectives. Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview Press, c2001. P 95.82 .C3 N47 2001
Phillips, Peter & Project Censored . Censored 2003: The Top 25 Censored Stories. Toronto: Seven Stories Press, c2002. PN 4736 .P45 2003
>> more about the alternative press: The Alternative Press and Academic Libraries: A Selected Bibliography
Looking for independent Canadian media?
There are many Canadian resources included in the list below, and many more at independentmedia.ca, a directoy of non-corporate journalism created by MANA (the Media Alliance for New Activism).
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 Press Review, http://www.altpr.org/
News, reviews, weekly roundups, and more.
Alternative Media Task Force, http://libr.org/amtf//
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, http://directory.libraryjuicepress.com/
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, http://www.alternativesmagazine.com/
"Resources for Cultural Creativity."
Brings together news and features published in 125 papers belonging to the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies
The Argosy, http://argosy.mta.ca/
"Independent Student Journal of Mount Allison Univeristy."
Broken Pencil, http://www.brokenpencil.com/
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, http://www.canadiandimension.com
A forum for debate, "where red meets green, feminists take on socialists...". Plus reviews of books, films, web sites, CDs, and videos.
Canadians for Democratic Media, http://democraticmedia.ca/
A national, non-profit, non-partisan media reform network working to increase informed public participation in Canadian media policy formation.
CMAQ: Centre for Media Alternative - Quebec, http://www.cmaq.net/en/
"A physical meeting point and a virtual platform for independent and alternative information."
Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), http://www.cjr.org/
See the 2003 September/October issue for a special report on Alterntive media.
Common Dreams: NewsCenter, http://www.commondreams.org
"Breaking news & views for the progressive community."
"Review journal that makes alternative points of view widely accessible to librarians, scholars and activists." Since 2001, a project of the Civic Media Center (Florida).
Adds "context to the mainstream media's output." Feature a media and politics blog, links to hundreds of magazines, newspapers web sites (including many Middle East media links). Also sponsors http://www.mediatransparency.org/
Democracy Now! http://www.democracynow.org/
Democracy Now! is a national (U.S.), daily, independent, news program airing on over 140 stations in North America. Site includes searchable and browsable archives.
The Dominion, http://www.dominionpaper.ca/
A "grassroots national newspaper." Features selection of alternative coverage of Canadian and international issues and includes a daily weblog.
Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, http://www.fair.org
Media watch group advocating greater diversity in the press and "scrutinizing media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints." Publishes Extra!, a bi-monthly magazine that examines biased reporting, censored news, media mergers ... and the exclusion of progressive voices from the media."
First Monday, http://firstmonday.org/
Peer-reviewed journal publishing original articles about the Internet and the Global Information Infrastructure.
Free Press, http://www.freepress.net
A "non-profit organization working to involve the public in media policymaking and to craft policies for a more democratic media system." Launched in December 2002 by Robert McChesney in collaboration with John Nichols and Josh Silver. See also: the National Conference on Media Reform site.
Independent Media Center (IMC), http://www.indymedia.org/
"A network of collectively run media outlets for the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate tellings of the truth." Initially 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, http://www.libr.org/ISC/
Activist organisation that examines issues of censorship, freedom and ethics amongst library and information workers.
In These Times, http://www.inthesetimes.com/
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, http://www.ips.org/
Worldwide non-profit association of journalists and others in the field of communication: "the world's leading provider of information on global issues."
Canadian, US, UK, and French news, links to alternative news sources and more.
Library Juice, http://libraryjuicepress.com/blog/
Library blog of Rory Litwin covering "topics of interest to passionate librarians, from a political Left perspective."
Maritimes IMC, http://maritimes.indymedia.org/
Independent, democratically produced coverage of issues, culture and events in Canada's Maritime Provinces.
Media Matters for America, http://www.mediamatters.org/
A "not-for-profit progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media."
Media Reform.ca, http://www.mediareform.ca/
Online forum launched in May 2007 "designed to be an open, diverse and nonpartisan website" where participants can talk about the media and "work for change."
Articles, media alerts, book reviews and more.
The Memory Hole, http://www.thememoryhole.org/index.htm
Preserves and spreads material that is in danger of being lost, is hard to find, or is not widely known, including: news articles, government files, reports, books, and more. Russ Kick publisher and editor.
Moncton Free Press/Presse Libre de Moncton, http://www.monctonfreepress.ca/
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, http://www.monthlyreview.org/
"Scholarship and activism, critical understanding and accessibility" for workers, labour organizers, academics.
Mother Jones, http://www.mojones.com/
Independent non-profit with a commitment to social justice and investigative reporting.
The Nation, http://www.thenation.com/
Critical discussions of social and political issues.
NB Media Co-op, http://nbmediacoop.org
Member-funder province-wide (New Brunswick) independent news website. Launched 3 August 2009.
New Internationalist, http://www.newint.org/
A communications co-operative reporting on issues of world poverty and inequality.
New Left Review, http://www.newleftreview.net/
Covers world politics and the global economy; state powers and protest movements; contemporary social theory; history and philosophy; cinema and literature; heterodox art and aesthetics.
New Pages: Alternatives in print and media, http://www.newpages.com/default.htm
"News, information and guides to independent bookstores, independent publishers, literary periodicals, alternative periodicals, independent record labels, alternative newsweeklies and more."
Our Times, http://www.ourtimes.ca/
"Canada's Independent Labour Magazine"
Progressive Librarian, http://www.libr.org/PL/
Articles, book reviews, bibliographies, reports and documents that explore progressive perspectives on librarianship and information issues.
Progressive Review, http://www.prorev.com/
Washington's most unofficial source since 1964 (editited by Sam Smith).
Project Censored (Sonoma State University), http://www.projectcensored.org/
Explores censorship and publicizes un- or under-reported stories. Also features long list of links to independent news sources.
Original news, interviews, and columns "from some of the few progressive voices in mainstream media."
The Real News (formerly known as Independent World Television, IWTNews), http://therealnews.com
Viewer-supported and non-profit television news and documentary network providing independent journalism.
SIMILE: Studies in Media & Information Literacy Education , http://www.utpjournals.com/simile/
Peer-reviewed journal publishing articles related to bibliographic instruction, information literacy, and media literacy.
Social Responsibilities Round Table, http://libr.org/SRRT/
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, http://www.straightgoods.com/
Independent news and consumer information, featuring investigative journalism and citizen journalism.
Canadian politics, literature and culture.
The Tyee, http://www.thetyee.ca/
Independent B.C. daily offering news, views and investigative reporting. Focus is on British Columbia.
Reprints articles from over 2,000 alternative media sources.
Your Media, http://www.yourmedia.ca
Media watchdog site that provides information on Canada's largest media congomerates. Launched 17 March 2004 by Canada/CWA, one of the country's largest media unions.
ZNet/Z Magazine, http://www.zmag.org/
"A continuous town meeting and intellectual and activist service center for large sectors of the progressive community."
Conservative News and Media Analysis (section in progress):
Accuracy in Media, http://www.aim.org/
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, http://www.spectator.org/
The Conservative Voice, http://www.theconservativevoice.com/
News and opnion from over 100 columnists.
CNSNews. com (Cybercast News Service), http://www.cnsnews.com/public/default.aspx
A division of the Media Research Centre (see below).
Human Events, http://www.humaneventsonline.com/
Weekly news magazine that is "objective" but "not impartial."
The Media Research Centre, http://www.mrc.org/
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, http://www.nationalreview.com/
The Patriot Post, http://patriotpost.us/
"The Internet's Journal of Record for the conservative revolution."
Suppressed News, http://suppressednews.com/
The Weekly Standard, http://www.weeklystandard.com/
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