Alternative Media Assignment

1432 words | 5 page(s)


This paper will look at alternative media in the 21st Century as well as compare and contrast two main alternative news organizations, Vice and Democracy Now. The paper will start off my looking at why alternative news has risen dramatically, and the reason or this being the failure of the mainstream media to resonate with people. The paper will transition on to looking at an episode of Vice. A summary with analysis will be given, and the methods they use will be identified as well. The paper will then look at an episode of Democracy Now and do the same with them. After looking at the two news sources, the paper will end by identifying the similarities and differences between the two and reflect on the biases and agenda setting. The goal of this paper is to increase awareness of alternative media and to compare and contrast styles within this platform.
Key words: alternative, media, agenda, biases

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The American have lost faith in the mainstream media, as they view this body as dishonest and biased. A 2016 Gallup poll found that only thirty-two percent of the public has a great deal or a fair amount of trust in the mainstream media. The poll also found that trust in the media fell across younger and older age groups, with 18 to 49-year-olds and fifty-plus at twenty-six and thirty-eight percent respectively. Another Gallup poll taken in 2017 found that sixty-two percent of Americans think that the mass media has a partisan bias. Additionally, fifty-five percent of Americans believe that the media is inaccurate and often don’t get their facts right. Surprisingly, this number has actually decreased since 2000, as this shows that the overall distrust has been around for a long time but hasn’t always been highlighted.

The fall of the mainstream media coupled with the rise of technology has allowed people to access alternative media in order to bypass the perceived dishonestly of the mainstream media. However, alternative media has also caused some issues in today’s generation. Oftentimes these outlets are extremely biased, sometimes more than the mainstream media, and people usually use the alternative media outlets that they most agree with. This causes people to retract into their own echo chambers and buy into a one-sided argument with no counterpoints. This closed-mindedness has caused a rather partisan atmosphere in the United States. Some prominent alternative media outlets are the HBO show Vice and a news program called Democracy Now. The paper will look at stories from both of these outlets and evaluate them in order to see the messages they present and how they present them. The paper will also compare these two outlets and discuss the ways in which they try and message their stories in order to set their agenda.

Vice News
The first outlet we will look at is Vice News, more specifically their episode titled “Burying the Boston Bomber & Uber 2.0.” To summarize, this episode started off with a flash briefing where the viewer is shown all the important stories such as healthcare, the Middle East, and North Korea. The episode takes us into the battle of war-torn Mosul, as the war against ISIS intensifies. We get a first-person point of view, and they explain what life is like for the people living there. It then goes to the Jeff Sessions hearing and shows us some of the important clips from it such as the opening statement and some of the questions from the senators. The episode then looks into the deaths of the Boston Bomber, and a funeral director, Peter Stefan, explains who he had to handle the terrorist’s body. Because he “honored” the body by burying him, people started protest outside of his home. The episode then goes to Uber, as it looks at the upcoming project, Uber 2.0. It showed that there is a massive problem within Uber pertaining to sexism. After this brief 30 second briefing, we were shown an in depth look at Roseburg, Oregon, where the public library was put on display. The story was centered around a property tax that the voters voted against.

Due to some complications, the library had to close and now people were out of ways to get books. In my opinion, the last story in this episode, the one where the library closed due to lack of funding, elicited the most emotion. This was because it showed how tough economic times affects people living in rural parts of the country. There was a lot of new information I got from this episode, as I had no clue that the Boston Bomber was buried at an Islamic burial site. I also had no clue that Uber had an issue with sexism in the workplace. However, I was exposed to the North Korea situation, the battle at Mosul, and the Jeff Sessions testimony. I thought it was a good mix, as the show had some mainstream news as well as some news people wouldn’t see on mass media. The flash briefings were in some ways great, as they covered a lot of material in twenty minutes. However, I would have liked to learn more details in some of the stories that were given 15 to 30 seconds. The information didn’t exactly influence my view. I think that this piece of alternative media was rather unbiased and balanced. In other words, the main objective for it was to get the news out to the audience instead of pushing one type of agenda.

Democracy Now
Next I watched an episode of Democracy Now. The episode talked about the bombing in Afghanistan and looked at the terrorist groups taking Afghan lives. The Afghan News Director, Lotfullah Najafizaha, was interviewed for about half an hour about Afghan forces and the U.S.’ next move to change the course of action in Afghanistan. The episode then went onto looking at arms and equipment transfers from Iraq and the U.S., and several U.S. arms deals. The show looked at an audit on the Pentagon, and explained through an expert that there was no organized way of transferring weapons. Because of this, some of these weapons could have been picked up by terrorists. As the expert explains, there has been a leakage of arms from us to the Iraqis, and these weapons typically go to ISIS and other terrorist organizations. This interview went on for about fifteen minutes, and went in depth on the weapon leakage of the arms deals of the United States. The episode then looked at airstrikes on ISIS, and showed that increased strikes on the U.S. has actually harmed some Syrians in some places because it destabilizes the region. I thought the most emotional piece in this was the Afghanistan attacks because it showed people on their deathbed and a war-torn area. It showed children dying and discussed how there isn’t much hope for them before or after ISIS leaves due to destabilization. I thought that since this episode covered more mainstream news with twenty to thirty-minute segments each, the information was relatively familiar and I knew a lot of the material already. That being said, I did like how the piece dedicated more time for each segment because it let the reader come away with more information than just with a flash briefing.

Similarities and Differences
The similarities between Vice and Democracy Now is that both included a flash briefing. Vice used this flash briefing throughout the entire episode while Democracy Now used it to open up the episode to kind of provide a table of contents to watchers. The main differences is that I believe that Vice was biased slightly towards the Right while Democracy Now was slightly biased towards the Left. I think this holds because Vice looked at a rural county, a place where Republicans typically win big in elections. You don’t typically see left-wing news platforms go into the rural parts of the country and cover normal people. I believe that Democracy Now is a left-leaning news organization because the coverage it had of President Trump pulling out of the Climate Agreement and giving the green light to the Dakota Access Pipeline was mainly, if not all, negative. In terms of agenda setting, I think that these two organizations were very fair. While they did impose some sort of opinion on the viewer, it wasn’t as strong as much of the mainstream media’s biases. I found this rather refreshing because I always thought that alternative news was more partisan, but I guess that’s not the case for some brands.

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