In the shadow of the upcoming election, American voters see each Presidential candidate’s policies and rhetoric almost exclusively through the eyes of corporate television and newspaper reporters.
Many of these same Americans are bothered by the possibility of bias in the news. Does the news seem to have a liberal slant? Is Fox News really the “fair and balanced” resource that you can trust? Are important stories being underreported?[news]
But more and more citizens are discovering that there is an alternative to these traditional news outlets. The Independent Media Institute (IMI) is a group attempting to address some of these questions. IMI has been working to organize and strengthen alternative and independent media sources for the past twelve years.
One of the IMI’s most successful projects, AlterNet.org, is an Internet information source that gathers, evaluates, and organizes links to independent media sources on today’s issues. AlterNet.org currently boasts a readership of 1.5 million readers per month despite refusing to advertise, relying only upon the word of mouth to popularize its content.
Daniel Price, a writer and media critic based out of Los Angeles, is a contributing writer to AlterNet.org. He encourages readers and listeners to maintain a critical eye towards mainstream media and seek out alternative sources.
“The problem is that everyone in this country is surrounded by news sources that feed misinformation, non-information, and disinformation from every side,” Price said. “Most of these large media outlets are run by huge conglomerates that need to constantly augment their earnings to keep their shareholders happy. They are not concerned with keeping the public informed; they worry much more about their bottom line.”
Another alternative source is the Independent Media Center, alternately known as indymedia.org or IMC. IMC is an unusual group, as it is a network of media organizations and journalists whose content is determined by the participants. This is in contrast to many other independent sources that tend to be regulated by small editorial groups that determine content.
This lack of editorial oversight has led to some negative consequences for IMC. The IMC is often criticized for publishing conspiracy theories, degrading material (i.e. racist or sexist), and factually inaccurate content.
The IMC’s content has also interested the FBI. On October 7 the FBI seized some of the IMC’s servers located in Britain. In a press release by the IMC’s hosting service, it was noted that the seizure complied with court orders mandated by the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty which governs the policing of “international terrorism, kidnapping, and money laundering.” IMC said that it was prohibited from giving any further detail.
“I think that groups such as the FBI and the CIA usually do a lot of work to stifle alternative news sources that tend to be critical of our government,” comments freshman Raf Mojica, who is a James Madison major as well as an avid reader of alternative news sources. “However, there may be a legitimate reason for the FBI to get involved with the Independent Media Center. With the amount of material posted by them, it is hard to know exactly what could have happened.”
Peter Werbe hosts the radio show Nightcall on Detroit’s WRIF and was also involved in the publication of The Fifth Estate, an anarchist newspaper formerly based out of Detroit. He explained that while alternative sources may contain offensive or even dangerous language, it is still important for them to be heard. “It is incredibly important that we know that these voices of dissent exist in our society,” Werbe said. “They should not be silenced as these are ideas that are clearly not expressed in the mainstream media.”
Price concurs that the mainstream media will always silence certain viewpoints. “The mainstream media is trying to appeal to as many people as possible, and of course these kinds of opinions are not prevalent in mainstream society.”
However, Price refutes any claim that the mainstream media is trying to push any kind of specific political agenda. “Partisan bias is just one thing that I refuse to complain about because it is overblown,” Price commented. “The slant in our news is not left or right, it is at the bottom line. Media is profit-driven.”
Only time will tell what effects both the mainstream media and alternative media sources will ultimately have on the results of the Presidential election. However, bias in the media will certainly remain an object of intense debate, even after the votes are counted and the winning candidate settles into the Oval Office.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *