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Ethnic/Alternative – Intro

By the Project for Excellence in Journalism


Of all the sectors of the news media, the Ethnic and Alternative media in America are still in many ways the most fluid. Even defining terms is complex. There are not one or two ethnic media, but dozens. The elements of the Spanish-language media in the United States do not have one ethnicity, but they do have one language. Some sectors of ethnic media are big business. Others are more political and less commercial. What once was called the alternative press, weekly newspapers in many cities, really in some ways represents an entertainment and long-form print weekly rather than a political alternative press. Beyond this, there is something some scholars refer to as the “dissident” press, which is separate from this alternative.

Indeed, ethnic and alternative media, though usually lumped together, are two distinct categories, and they will be dealt with here separately. Hence generalizations and conclusions are necessarily difficult. In some parts of the ethnic media, owners of small regional outlets are still important players. Ethnic populations change rapidly. And the markets vary widely by ethnicity. Meanwhile, in the so-called “alternative” press, while the companies are hardly household names, consolidation is rapidly changing the medium.

Nonetheless, these media are important to consider. Many of them are growing fast, in contrast to the contraction of the mainstream media. Just as important, in many ways, they are closer to their audiences and less focused on profit demands, which makes them more flexible and more a leading indicator of cultural change.

This chapter will look at these two media using the following structure: