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Radical journalism

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

An article on radical journalism by Chris Atton. How does the concept of 'radical journalism' relate (if at all) to the journalism training projects we are planning to run for local youth?

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ABSTRACT 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 defning
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 Žnds 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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