The Dissident Press in America

The three earliest models of the American dissident press are inspiring.  The three papers crusading on the behalf of labor rights, abolition of slavery and women’s rights were relentless in their fight for equality and justice.  Reading through these three accounts, I noticed several similarities between the dissident press in the 1800s and the alternative press today.

The early labor press campaigned for the rights of the “forgotten” in the mainstream media.  “The Mechanic’s Free Press said point blank that general-circulation newspapers spoke only for the ‘aristocracy of wealth’ and ‘either entirely neglected’ poor people or spoke about common men and women ‘only with contempt'”(Streitmatter 5).  I think this definitely parallels the press today because independent media is compelled to fill in the gaps and give voice to the people the mainstream news neglects. Today, widespread conglomeration is narrowing the interests of mainstream news and they generally promote free trade at the expense of labor rights.  In my personal opinion, the news beat regarding labor unions, labor rights and the problems with growing industrialization seem to be completely missing from the mainstream news.

William Lloyd Garrison’s “The Liberator” was daring and courageous.  Garrison showed the possibilities of developing an open forum for discussion, which is a huge component of today’s independent media and blogs.  Garrison would reprint an editorial attack alongside his own rebuttal.  “Garrison had not only provided his own subscribers with a double dose of lively reading, but he also had introduced readers of a pro-slavery paper to The Liberator and the anti-slavery ideology it promulgated” (Streitmatter 30).  This strategy was genius because he widened his viewership and spread awareness about his paper and the unjust practice of slavery.  Garrison’s technique reminds me of how independent media outlets today promote a cause or an interest so adamantly that the mainstream media cannot ignore it anymore.  Reporters of the blog Talking Points Memo led coverage on a national issue when they pieced together the details about the firing of a group of U.S. attorneys.

Like most independent media outlets today, “The Revolution” cared more about furthering their cause then making a profit. Elizabeth Cady Stanton refused to take advertisements for patent medicines because “she believed that the unregulated elixirs contained so much alcohol that they were dangerous” (Streitmatter 40). The Revolution built up a massive debt and only lasted two and a half years, but its founders stuck to their principles and never wavered in their plight for women’s rights.  This creed reminds me of Common Dreams because they too refuse to accept advertising from corporations since it could conflict with their values of remaining independent and free of any hidden agendas.  Common Dreams states, “We may not have the deep pockets of the corporate media.  But we have our integrity, a shared commitment to truth and a growing base of intelligent readers.”

The early dissident press are great examples of independent media because they show men and women fighting for equality and rights in the face of adversity and hardship and actually making a difference.


About Laura Murray

My name is Laura Murray and I am a senior Journalism major and politics minor at Ithaca College. Upon graduation, I plan to pursue a career in broadcast journalism as a reporter or a producer.
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