Other Voices: The Connexions Newsletter
November 27, 2016
This Issue: Alternative Media
We depart from our usual format to present a special issue of Other Voices devoted entirely to alternative media.
It’s not exactly news that the mainstream media – corporate-owned and state-owned – are biased and anything but reliable. Their reporting may well contain accurate information, but even when (some of) their facts are correct, the overall framing and context are shaped by their ideological function of supporting the capitalist system of which they are an integral part. More than ever, the mainstream media are propaganda arms of a power structure fusing corporations and the neoliberal state.
Changes in the media landscape exacerbate the situation. Corporate consolidation means that most major media outlets are now owned by a small number of large corporations, following policies dictated by head office. The actual number of media are shrinking: for example, whereas a few decades ago most major cities had competing daily newspapers, now most cities have only one, and where they have two, both are often owned by the same company. Corporatization of the media has also meant significant cutbacks in staffing, resulting inevitably in reduced coverage, and poor reporting marked by reliance on fewer sources. Fact checkers, copy editors, and proofreaders have largely gone the way of the manual typewriter.
It’s no wonder, then, that the mainstream media are widely distrusted, and even held in contempt, by many people. They are seen, rightly, as part of the neoliberal system people are increasingly rejecting.
On the other hand, the Internet has made it possible to launch a vast number of alternative media projects. These range from bloggers, tweeters, Facebook commentators, and other self-publishers active in the social media realm, to major information-rich websites and media projects with paid staff and professional standards.
However, most of these independent projects face the severe limitations imposed by not being well-funded corporate media projects. With the best intentions in the world, it’s impossible to keep providing high-quality stories about a wide range issues with volunteers, or a small number of paid staff. The constraints faced by the mainstream media – understaffing, shrinking revenues – impact the alternative media to an even greater extent.
And just what are “alternative media”? The rough-and-ready definition used in selecting media to feature in this issue of Other Voices is that they are independent and that they are broadly left in their political orientation, that is, that they offer a left alternative to the mainstream media.
Of course, all media, mainstream or alternative, right or left, must be read critically. Alternative media are quite capable of getting things wrong or publishing nonsense; indeed, they frequently do. They also often disagree with each other. This can be helpful. Hearing about different approaches, and thinking about the reasons behind them, helps us understand things better.
This is true of corporate and state-funded media as well. News media like Al Jazeera, RT, and teleSUR certainly reflect the biases of their owners (Qatar, Russia, and several South American governments, respectively), but, because those biases are different from the mainstream American, British, and Canadian media, they can and do cover news that the western corporate media ignore or falsify, and they can be worth checking out as well.
Connexions offers a much more extensive alternative media list on the Connexions website here. In this newsletter, we present a selection of media from that larger list. Like anything else, this is a reflection of individual biases; still, we hope that it helps you to learn about websites and media that you'll find useful in finding out and understanding what’s happening in the world.
There is no clear dividing line between 'media' websites and other websites. Many high-quality websites provide information and analysis. To find more of them, try browsing the Connexions Directory of Groups and Websites. The Connexions website itself features current content as well as a massive online library of articles and books going back decades. Connexions also gives you the ability to find related resources and background information on almost any topic, via the browseable Subject Index and the Search tool.
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A global news agency. “IPS raises the voices of the South and civil society.” Non-mainstream news from around the world. A wide range of stories, and more actual reporting and news coverage than most alternative media. Left-liberal politics, a bit light on analysis. Find them here
Bills itself as providing “independent global news.” Available via satellite television, community and campus radio, podcast, and on the Internet. Lots of stories and interviews, but their claim to be “global” is a stretch: Friday’s front page featured 21 stories, of which 18 where about the U.S. Find them here
An independent research and media site which publishes news articles, commentary, background research and analysis on a broad range of topics, focussing on social, economic, strategic, geopolitical and environmental issues. The quality of the reporting and analysis varies widely, from solid to crackpot. Find them here
The Intercept was initially launched to provide a platform to report on the documents released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The site’s primary focus is on government surveillance, spying, and police state tactics. Other issues covered include political corruption, racism, militarism, and the complicity of the mainstream media. Find them here
Sites devoted primarily to news about Canada
Bills itself as “space for issues, a place to explore political passions and an opportunity to expand ideas.” Has a sprinkling of original news stories, but leans heavily to columns, blogs, interviews, and commentaries rather than original reporting. Left-leaning, but rarely leans farther left than the NDP. Find them here
Environmental affairs magazine (online + print) covering a wide range of issues, ranging from the environmental costs of industrial agriculture, the health effects of toxins, the effects of economic globalization, and actions by environmentalists and grassroots communities. Find them here
Connexions features an online library of articles, books, films, news, and analysis going back more than 40 years. If you want to find out what is happening around the world and how people are resisting, and how it all relates to what happened in the past, Connexions offers a large and well-organized collection of materials (more than 200,000 pages on the site). The Subject Index and the Search tool enable you to find what you are looking for, plus what you didn’t even know you were looking for. Find us here
We know that the mainstream media lie and distort on a daily basis. Knowing what exactly is wrong or distorted isn’t always so easy, though, if you don’t have the time and knowledge to do in-depth research. That’s where media criticism sites like Media Lens come in: they do the dirty work of documenting and rebutting the mainstream media. “MediaLens is a response based on our conviction that mainstream newspapers and broadcasters provide a profoundly distorted picture of our world. We are convinced that the increasingly centralised, corporate nature of the media means that it acts as a de facto propaganda system for corporate and other establishment interests.” Find Media Lens here
A media relations guide for organizers and activists. Topics covered include: What and who are the media? Who decides whether a story gets covered? What makes a story newsworthy? The influence of advertising on media formats. Things which need not be said and things which cannot be said. Media strategy. Framing your issue and countering the frames of the dominant media. Deciding on your key message. Hooks to entice or persuade the media that your story is newsworthy. Find it here
For more alternative media and information sources, see Connexions’ Alternative Media List
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