According to the author Susan Forde, Challenging the News, an essential element in defining alternative media is that someone is watching the watchers; that media power itself must be monitored, assessed, critiqued, and challenged. Alternative journalists are those that provide that critique” (Susan Forde, 2011). The four primary characteristics in defining what is alternative media are: alternative journalists are committed to encourage participation and political activity; priority is given to ‘immediately relevant’ local news; stories are chosen to represent ‘the untold’, or ‘the scoop’ about the voiceless; and critiques are made of the dominant news ethos and its processes”(Susan Forde, 2011).
“The mass-media in its various forms for centuries has played a role in the democratic process, but with the inception of new electronic networks the possibility for media influence on the way we govern ourselves has greatly increased.” (Kaul, 2012) Mass media through its forms has been largely reporting, whereas today mass-media is cultivating the dialogue by means of controlling and messaging, diverting and reporting misleading or directed stories.
The quandary of the perception of alternative media being a watchdog for the mainstream media, is short-sided. The evolution of motivations for the reporting coupled with the culmination of readership and monetized readership, what was initially alternative media thus many times becomes mainstream. The percentage of alternative that remains true to the tenants of telling the story regardless of concern for corporation and or institutions those fear alternative media sources, make the process of democratic media worthwhile. These voices rise to public awareness what is critical at that point in human history. Un-relented by market forces the marginalized voices are raised to the spectrum of global public awareness. Reporters like Amy Goodman and Tom Hartman serve greater function than merely watch dogs of the mainstream media.
What serves as the popularly accepatable definition of alternative media is for me somewhat lacking. The new media inter-active system has allowed for more levels of opinion and actual reporting from places far and stories wide. This instantaneous i-reporting has not only filled a need for field reporting it has allowed the once fringe media the same instant access to information and news stories as they occur. This leaves the news analyst to critically analyze together at the same time…what this does is nearly equalize the weight the voices carry from Fox to Amy Goodman. People are free to watch whom they wish analyzing news day-to day- story by story.
What was once alternative could be considered today mainstream in the way of public access to the information. What is of concern are regional refusals such as cable companies in Texas whom will not carry cspan…nor free speech tv. This censorship is of concern. While I lived in Houston I knew of the alternative media in Austin on Austin Public Access, prior to the net, and whenever traveling through that was one of the big features was watching the alternative on tv as opposed to only reading in a free weekly tabloid.
Further , today people voicing their opinions, opining on social media outlets such as Facebook , twitter and my space, those voices are the outer realm, the outer ring of alternative media. Once the idea is hurled from the outer realm the tide of voices will either favor or dis-favor that message lifting or squelching it…democracy is served as all ideas get a chance and the popular raised up. Its George’s (Mr, Sulu, Geo, Takei) explanation of what the logarithm function is to facebooks posting system…it’s everything. I think it may actually function democratically.
While I concur with McChesney and the others regarding the definitions of mainstream versus alternative, I believe it highly situational as to that particular outlets bias.
There are cases of omissions connected to that overall theme that seems to be a thread in the assesments, of clear co-ersion connected to the overall theme favorable to big corporations and business. Then, there are cases of stories that seem to come from nowhere and matter to only a few and yet the media runs them they “grow legs” to coin a phrase, meaning stories that gain momentum by way of sharing or being mirrored by other resources and outlets…stories can “grow legs”, and I always wonder why? And why right now? A diversionary tactic to be sure.
I think on the diversion and omissions wed all agree but as to what is Mainstream media. We all must remain that we ourselves do not become so coerced and co-opted to become that ourselves.
Not so much as writers but as consumers of information, for failing to thoroughly question the authenticity of information through journalistic is not only a means to an end…it could easily be the end of freedom. I believe in a democratic media where all ideas and voices can be seen and heard.
Forde, Susan, Challenging the News: The Journalism of Alternative & Community Media. Robie, David, Pacific Journalism Review; Oct 2012, Vol. 18 Issue 2, p 199-202.
Kaul, Vineet, Interface Between Media, Democracy and Development. China Media Research; Jul 2012, Vol. 8 Issue 3, p 52-64.