1st Edition

Beyond Mainstream Media Alternative Media and the Future of Journalism

By Stephen Cushion Copyright 2024
    192 Pages
    by Routledge

    192 Pages
    by Routledge

    Offering one of the most comprehensive assessments of alternative media to date, Beyond Mainstream Media examines the rise of alternative media over the last decade, analysing their changing content and editorial strategies, and exploring why many people go beyond the mainstream media for news and information.

    Considering the differences in agenda between alternative and mainstream media coverage, Cushion sheds light on why right-wing alternative media have become a more prominent part of national media systems than left-wing sites in the Western World. In doing so, he argues that alternative left-wing media should place less emphasis on attacking professional journalism and focus more on converging into the world of mainstream news to promote their politics. This book draws on over 3,500 articles and 17,000 social media posts produced by alternative media, extensive interviews with editors and contributors, and a survey of over 2,700 media users. It develops a comparative international perspective by explaining how findings and concepts can be applied to understanding much broader issues, such as public distrust in the mainstream media or the influence different media and political systems have on the production of alternative media.

    Providing both an introduction to and a critical analysis of the state of alternative media today, this book is written in clear, jargon-free language and is recommended reading for advanced students undertaking courses in Alternative Media and Political Journalism.


    The rise of new left-wing and right-wing alternative media

    Studying alternative media and their wider influence

    The scope of the book

    Chapter by chapter outline

    Chapter One

    Researching the boundaries of alternative and mainstream media

    Conceptualising alternative media: towards a more inclusive understanding?

    Researching alternative media: Towards an international agenda

    Content: developing left-right comparative and longitudinal analysis of online and social media output

    Production: from single case studies of activism to comparative analysis of alternative media

    Audiences: identifying alternative media users and understanding their relationship to mainstream media

    Conclusion: towards a holistic understanding of alternative media

    Chapter Two

    The evolution and influence of alternative media in national media and political systems

    Interpreting the characteristics of new alternative online political media

    Understanding the editorial character of UK alternative media

    Continuities and changes in alternative media (2020-2021)

    Understanding alternative media: reflecting and responding to changes in national media and political systems

    Chapter Three

    How alternative online political media use social media

    The use of social media in alternative and mainstream media

    UK comparative study of Twitter use in right-wing and left-wing sites (2015-2018)

    How the changing political environment reshapes social media content (2020-2021)

    Editorial differences, but a mainstreaming of social media use in alternative media

    Chapter Four

    Attacking mainstream media: the role media systems play in shaping how professional journalism is critiqued

    The portrayal of mainstream media in alternative media: a cross-national perspective

    The (changing) editorial focus on mainstream media and professional journalism

    Six ways alternative media de-legitimize mainstream media

    Why media systems shape alternative media criticism of professional journalism

    Chapter Five

    The professionalisation of alternative political media production

    Interpreting the hybridity of alternative media production

    Production processes of alternative media

    Organizational structures

    Organizational practices

    Editorial functions


    Beyond activism: The professionalization of alternative media

    Chapter Six

    The influence of mainstream media on alternative media production

    Interpreting the continuum between mainstream and alternative media

    The relationship between alternative media and mainstream media production

    Political journalism

    Editorial coverage and agenda

    Media correctives

    The importance of social media

    Developing professional production practices to challenge mainstream media power


    Chapter Seven

    Who uses alternative media and why?

    Identifying and characterising alternative media users

    To what extent have people heard or accessed alternative media sites?

    Where and why do people use alternative media?

    What issues and topics matter to alternative media users?

    Interpreting the complexity and fluidity of alternative media users

    Chapter Eight

    The attitudes of alternative media users towards mainstream media

    The relationship between mainstream and alternative media

    The political orientation of alternative media users and their engagement with mainstream media

    Alternative media users’ attitudes to mainstream journalism and journalists

    Alternative media users’ attitudes towards BBC News and the BBC generally

    Beyond echo chambers and filter bubbles: towards a sceptical media savvy user

    Chapter Nine

    Alternative media and the future of journalism

    De-Westernising alternative media studies: understanding differences in cross-national media and political environments

    De-centring alternative media studies: Why the US’s media and political system is exceptional compared to other Western nations

    The relationship between alternative media use and disaffection with mainstream media

    The rise of right-wing alternative media and their opposition to mainstream media

    The future of journalism? The role of alternative left-wing media and their ideological influence



    Stephen Cushion is Professor at the School of Journalism, Media and Culture, Cardiff University, UK.

    ‘Cushion's Beyond Mainstream Media is rigorously researched and masterfully written. Given its international scope and provocative critique, the book promises to become a key text within political communication and journalism studies. I urge my colleagues to read and engage with it.’

    Professor Victor Pickard, University of Pennsylvania 

    ‘Cushion’s work is invaluable to understanding how the evolution of alternative news is intrinsically tied to mainstream politics and professional journalism. This book suggests the future of news could look brighter with more commingling of alternative and mainstream approaches.’ 

    Professor Jennifer Rauch, Linfield University, author of Resisting the News: Engaged Audiences, Alternative Media and Popular Critique of Journalism

    'A fascinating and much needed empirical analysis of the production, content and user engagement of ‘alternative political media’ in the UK that helps us to understand why people trust mainstream media (and politics) less and how alternative news media have evolved in relation to them. Dispelling myths of alternative media and their users as either amateur journalists or political activists Cushion reveals distinctive content with increasingly professionalised processes used by critical news consumers with diverse media diets. Crucial reading for those seeking to understand ‘alternative’ media and politics.'

     Professor Natalie Fenton, Goldsmiths, University of London.

    'By delving into the mainstreaming of alternative online political media, this book offers a nuanced understanding of their impact on contemporary politics and journalism. Cushion's rigorous empirical research, including content analysis, interviews, and surveys, provides a solid foundation for his arguments. This work challenges the traditional categorization of alternative media and sheds light on the diverse perspectives and ideologies that these platforms now encompass. It is a thought-provoking and thoughtfully executed study that will undoubtedly shape future scholarly discussions in the field'. 

    Frank Esser, University of Zurich Switzerland