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Chapter 9-1

CMNS 221 Chapter Notes - Chapter 9-1: Independent Media Center, Alternative Media, Wikinews

Course Code
CMNS 221
Martin Laba

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Contemporary Practices of Alternative Journalism
Central to empowerment is the opportunity for ordinary people to tell their own stories
without the formal education or professional expertise and status of the mainstream
While it is possible to conceptualize alternative media production as a field in its own
right, it is important to consider that the habitus of alternative journalists might be
developed from their experience of mainstream media
Radical journalism developed from social movements thus represents “social” media
that emphasize a communicative democracy based on a media commons rather than
on a segregated,elitist and professionalized occupational activity
The Internet has allowed the greatest expansion in alternative journalism
Participatory Online News Reporting
The most prevalent function of alternative media news is to fill the gaps that its
reporters believe have been left by the mainstream media
These gaps are due in part to the increasingly conglomerated nature of
commercialized news production, where centralization and bureaucratization result in
a standardized and limited repertoire of news across the range of media platforms
It is also due to the professionalized nature of journalism, where newsgathering and
assessments of newsworthiness are routinized to such an extent that news
production relies on repeated formulas
Mainstream news is often placed in a context where issues and rationales are
presented as largely fixed and motionless, the emphasis on timeliness reduces news
to events within the 24-hour news cycle
The Internet has made possible two complementary practices that challenge these
routines and formulas
Selections from that output in ways that encourage comparison and criticism
Internet-based projects such as Indymedia and the technology news site Slashdot
have developed a multiperspectival journalism that brings together breaking news,
eyewitness reporting and commentary
The alternative journalist is both reporter and activist
The multiple reports are made possible by editorial practices that are very different
from the hierarchical practices of mainstream media
Despite these differences, the publication of multiple voices promotes a very different
notion of the place of news in the formation of public opinion from that of the
mainstream media
Public deliberation should begin with a journalism that underscores the variety of
ways to frame an issue, rather than presenting an issue already framed in a
particular and exclusive way
Wikinews resembles mainstream news in its unidirectional flow from writer to reader;
because commentary and discussion of the news is forbidden, there are none of the
multiple conversations that characterize Indymedia and Slashdot
Contributors to MySpace or amateur reviewers on Amazon are superficially similar to
fanzine writers, insofar as they are amateur critics and commentators on popular
There are two major differences between these groups
Fanzine writers work within a framework that is entirely independent of the
mainstream media
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The contributors to MySpace or Amazon are better thought of as a
background (everyday life) rather than foreground (deliberate act of
Fanzines as Alternative Cultural Journalism
Critics of popular forms need know nothing about such form except as consumers;
their skill is to be able to write about ordinary experience
In the case of fanzines, these ordinary voices tend to be self-selected, rather than
sought out and encouraged as in the alternative local press
Fanzines often arise because the objects of their study are ignored by mainstream
Fanzines also challenge critical orthodoxy; they may arise because their writers
believe that their culture is marginalized or misrepresented by mainstream tastes
Unlike the local alternative press, fanzines offer opportunities to create, maintain and
develop taste communities across geographic boundaries
They are less interested in reaching out to broader audiences, preferring to cultivate
and consolidate a specialist audience
Fanzine writers tend to write at much greater length than the capsule reviews that are
now common in newspapers and specialist, commercial magazines
The credibility and authority of a music fanzine often enables it to obtain interviews
from artists directly, bypassing public-relations professionals
The fanzine is dominated by comment and opinion
Fanzines drew mostly on local and national mainstream media, as well as press
releases from the football clubs
News in football fanzines is dominated by stories from commercial news providers
There is an emphasis on reduction, revision, preparation, editing and publishing;
journalism as original writing is less prominent
Blogs and Bloggers
Bloggers present their narratives, news and commentary from the perspective of the
Blogs may describe the everyday minutiae of the writer’s life, or may function as
journalism, and therefore may be understood as comprising a number of practices
This journalism focuses less on the journalist as professional expert; instead it
proposes a relationship between writer and reader where epistemological claims may
be made about the status of journalism and its practitioners
It suggests new ways of thinking about and producing journalism
The blog has become both an alternative and a mainstream practice
The incorporation of blogs into professional journalism repairs the perceived
vulnerabilities of professional journalists
The journalism community may try to redefine blogging as journalistic tool, and
bloggers as amateur journalists or journalism wannabes
Objectivity Revisited
The professional ideal of objectivity, understood as the separation of facts from
values, may be considered the key ethical dimension of journalistic practice
Investigative reporting and interviewing flourished impersonal, fact-centred
techniques of observation informed these practices, with the consequent rise of the
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