Tony HarcupAlternative Media & Democracy Strathclyde University, Michael Higgins, seminar. Sheffield University 2008, April 30
Journalism: Principles and Practices
The Ethical Journalist
‘What is News?’ – more used article in Journalism Studies
would democracy be dead wout alternative media?
base on views of people working in alternative media
started working on an alternative newspaper
mid 1970s – dropped out of uni – to alt newspaper in leeds - opportunity to get paid for this work -
moved into mainstream journalism
then to uni
Christ atton – pioneered work ‘alternative media’
Alternative media plays key role in providing form of democratic comm.
Definition of alternative media (Coyer 2007) - ‘participatory’ o goes beyond UGC
goes beyond that which sees itself as oppositional
but voice of alienated
limits? - graffiti as alt media
my focus on journalistic type of alt media
sample of 22 journos, over 40 types of mainstream media - each moved from alt to mainstream
morning star, spare rib, outright, inc, oz, -
publications of campaign – eg troops out,
non-aligned left wing: red pepper, the leveller
also websites, cable tv stations and fanzines
football fanzine – oppositional voice
asked how define?
Answers: - trad of publications - never even thought of – small scale, personal interest, desire to share a point of view, minimal commercial aspiration - used to be what isn’t in WH Smith, but now collapsed due to internet, difference between taking advertising or not - any pubn different from mainstream views of soc, shaped by opinion leaders - different from dominant - different angle, not sexy - collective endeavour o working in alt way - challenge norms - seeks to subvert - ownership – imp to get info out, not to get paid for it - serve fringe political or enviro int groups - similar ideas to academics, though not informed by - stance of outsider, beyond usual political discourse o can it include right wing, religious? • some say it is left • leaning by definition - some start as alt, eg. Time Out or New Statesman o listings invented by alt press
challenge status quo
what’s it all for?
Role of alt media? - democracy dead wout them - freedom to act irresponsibly is imp - not bound by commercial pressures
eg. campaign for abolition of slavery. Where did this emerge? - Sheffield Register, 1787
Colonel B – give evidence to prosecute journos - The Leveller published this, defy Official Secrets Act; plays a democratic role
Spare Rib, fem mag – contraception, weight, - a lot now mainstream, but dismissed as wacky at the time
Tony Benn – how ideas change
Alt Public sphere
‘service to a community that would never be financially viable’
Dennis McQuail ‘democratic participant media’ – ‘looks after t needs of citizens’
Intro of citizens – different relationship – people addresses as citz not consumers
Being allowed to participate
a) Express oppositions vertically – speak truth to power - hold people in power to account
b) build support laterally
vertical and lateral purposes involved
John Downing - not just opposing mainstream - not binary - but hybrids
Clemencia Rodriquez - not happy that completely different - she uses ‘citizens media’ - not just non-mainstream, but active citizenship - transformative processs - ‘articulates metaphoric transformation …into active citizens’ - ‘concept accounts for processes of empowerment that result when ….reclaim own media’ - ‘exercise own agency’ - process of empowerment
if so, could be called citizen journalism - but been hijacked by something else: user generated content
blogging - some recognized as journalism, some not
mere fact that someone is writing something and publishing does not make it journalism - ME: what does?
But alt media does - about empowering and engaging citz
Paul Manning ‘news and news sources’ - health of public sphere depends on success of diverse groups getting views across in mainstream media - least powerful groups face structural obstacles - importance of alternative benchmarks o wout how can we scrutinize mainstream?
regional news – focus on danger of social life
Questions & Answers
Jen, Gla: - US idea of ‘public journalism’ vs ‘citz journ’ o Public agendas: volunteering, debate, etc - Local papers – ‘we’re voice of XXXX’
Tony - evening papers have sense of readers, rather than serving civic function - not conflict with commercial interest - damp council houses – we’d run the story, but local papers would not because it’s depressing - local papers had clearly defined institutional sources, we didn’t
Phil: alternative vs activist?
Michael: trust – novelty not alternative media - does diversification of alternative media limit capability to establish trust
Tony: where do people go online for news? Overwhelmingly BBC, guardian, times, etc - why? Trust o ME: presumption of covering general news – ie. It has a network of journalists and a filter process for this - Bigger danger for alternative media is just to be heard at all -
Indymedia and indymedia-watch.
Can alternative media journos be more ethical?
Tony: yes, but can be irresponsible.
ME: are citizen journalists alternative media?
ME: different demographic of alt media – is it sole/main job?
ME: how qualify whether does challenge status quo?
ME: how does alt media vary across world? Is it culturally specific? Going to jail not equally as attractive outside uk
ME: difference between a rag that is oppositional to a particular brand as opposed to a set of political ideas?
ME: Whose mainstream are we alternative to?
ME: who’s doing hijacking of citz journ?
ME: could you envisage a portal to alternative media?
ME: Is alternative media visible in non-democratic states?