The Alternative Press’s Indelible Role in American History

Chris Faraone, former staff writer for the late Boston Phoenix, reflects on the long history of the alternative press in American culture in the Columbia Journalism Review.

Through the prism of the Phoenix, Faraone reviews David Armstrong’s seminal A Trumpet to Arms, noting that alternative journalism predates its 1960s heyday:

A Trumpet to Arms begins long before Vietnam radicalized Baby Boomers, and addresses alt-media developments all the way through 1980. By covering underground feats from the American Revolution, to the women’s suffrage movement, to the age of nuclear proliferation, Armstrong connects rabble-rousers throughout history—and makes clear that the alt-media ethic existed long before the Summer of Love.

For instance, he notes the famed 19th century Boston-based antislavery newspaper The Liberator.

And then there’s Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton‘s The Revolution, which way back in 1868 published the following:

“We declare war to the death on the idea that woman was made for man…. We proclaim the higher truth that, like man, she was created by God for Individual Moral Responsibility and progress here and forever.”

(“In response,” Faraone writes, “The New York Sunday Times advised Stanton to ‘attend a little more to her domestic duties and a little less to those of the great public.'”)

Faraone’s article travels through the 1900s to today, and spends ample time in the medium’s historical sweetspot, the mid-20th century. But it calls to mind a point all the more relevant in the Internet age — that alternative media is (and has been) anywhere a group of writers is (and was) trying to do things a little differently.

Columbia Journalism Review: “Clarion Call”

photo: Susan B. Anthony. credit: Wikimedia Commons