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News Cultures and New Social Movements: radical journalism and the mainstream media

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Radical media can be viewed as an extremely democratic form of communication, where people normally denied access to the mainstream media are able to speak on issues that concern them. Radical media are especially important for new social movements, where "activist-journalists" seek to establish a counter-discourse to those typically found in mainstream media. One striking technique employed in radical media is "native reporting", where first-person, activist accounts of events are preferred over more detached commentaries. Most accounts of radical media have treated such practices as unique and defining characteristics of radical media. Little attention has been paid to how these practices might be employed by mainstream media, or indeed to how radical media might borrow practices from the mainstream. This paper moves away from previous binary approaches to explore the relations between radical and mainstream media through a comparative analysis of the coverage of the protests at the G8 summit, held in Genoa in July 2001. The paper argues that borrowings and interdependency are most likely to come from papers that share a similar ideology; hence it compares a member of the UK radical press (SchNEWS) with a member of the liberal press (The Guardian). The analysis is hegemonic, and is particularly interested in how transfers of journalistic techniques, values and ideologies are transformed under differing conditions. Is a counterhegemonic discourse inevitably diluted by the adoption of its primary features in the mainstream press? Is it possible to radicalise mainstream journalistic practices? The analysis focuses on the presence and nature of "witnessing" by activists, the stylistic construction of such witnessing and how such techniques are transformed in the liberal press. It also examines relationships and attitudes between radical and mainstream journalists. The paper finds that whilst there are distinctive journalistic techniques used in each paper, both radical and mainstream adopt elements from each other, whether in writing style or in news values and framing. The counter-discourse of radical media appears to gain strength from its borrowings. It is argued that the liberal press's use of native reporting represents an accommodation with a radical technique. Finally, a hegemonic approach suggests a complexity of relations between radical and mainstream that previous binary models have not been able to identify.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2002

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