#callfor Contesting the Mainstream: Understanding Alternative News Media (Digital Journalism)

Date(s) - 03/07/2020
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+ info: Digital Journalism

IN THE CURRENT DIGITAL MEDIA LANDSCAPE, marked by declining institutional trust, political polarization and cultural warfare, the rise of new alternative news media has received increased scholarly and political attention. This special issue of Digital Journalism will make a significant intervention into debates about the role and impact of alternative media, enhancing our understanding of their position in the wider digital media landscape.

In this special issue we take a relational approach to alternative news media, conceptualising it first and foremost as a proclaimed and/or (self-) perceived corrective, opposing the overall tendency of public discourse emanating from what is perceived as the dominant mainstream media in a given system (Holt et al. 2019, 862). This includes alternative news media propagating different political (e.g. left- as well as right-wing), religious (e.g. fundamentalist), or philosophical (e.g. animal rights) ideologies (Holt et al. 2019).

Studies show producers of alternative news actively counter the perceived ‘biased’, ‘corrupt’ and ‘lying’ mainstream media (Figenschou & Ihlebæk 2019). They capitalize on the increasing dissatisfaction and disengagement with mainstream news media (Cushion 2018), often positioning themselves as ‘better journalists’ (Eldridge, 2018). At the same time, the professionalization of some alternative news media organizations challenges the dichotomy between what might be seen as ‘alternative’ and ‘mainstream’ media. This calls for further research on the current spectrum of alternativeness spanning from mainstream to alternative news media (Frischlich, Klapproth, & Brinkschulte, in press).

The increased digitalization of public spheres prompts new and urgent questions about how people are informed about politics and public affairs. More people use sources outside of the established news media, particularly those with lower trust in the established news media (Newman et al, 2018). This calls for further contributions that avoid simplistic perceptions of these audiences and confront dystopian assumptions about effects with sound empirical and theoretical work.

THIS SPECIAL ISSUE OF DIGITAL JOURNALISM aims to deepen our understanding of the role and impact of digital alternative news media by addressing macro (i.e. regulatory systems, media policy), meso (i.e. production and distribution processes, relations to professional organizations) and micro (i.e. content, content producers/‘journalists’, users) perspectives about the growth and character of alternative news media. Beyond welcoming research covering alternative news media in the context of populist sentiments and far-right movements (i.e. Brexit, Trump), this issue specially invites contributions from non-Western cultural and political contexts, including non-democratic societies, the Global South and East.