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Is the Future Bright for Progressive Media?

A new book highlights how progressive media has achieved more influence than ever before. But there's still work to be done.

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Hazen describes the site's model as "strategic journalism" -- reporting tethered to advocacy. Sometimes AlterNet staffers will team up with advocacy groups, not just to report on related issues but to craft ads that drive AlterNet readers to the organizations. "I haven't figured out the balance between activism and journalism," says Hazen, "and I don't know if anyone ever will.

Hazen says the site is still closer to an old-media, broadcast model than a diary-driven, user-generated blog. "Our main goal is to get the best stuff out to as many people as possible and have them do with it what they will."

AlterNet helps to support the expansion of the progressive media sector in other ways. It serves as a hub and amplifier for networked campaigns, working closely with producer-activists such as Robert Greenwald. Hazen himself regularly writes about the prospects and pitfalls of progressive media. In spring 2008 the site launched its own imprint, AlterNet Books, which published Rory O'Connor's Shock Jocks: Hate Speech and Talk Radio . The book includes an analysis of how progressive radio personalities are beginning to counter conservative dominance on the dial.

Over the years, AlterNet has made a conscious effort to diversify its content, at times creating a self-imposed guideline for editors selecting the day's news so as to incorporate female writers and writers of color. But their challenge in doing so reflects a discrepancy in the progressive media choir itself.

Both legacy outlets and the progressive blogosphere are dominated by white, male, middle-class writers, editors, directors, producers, and pundits.

Check out Jessica Clark and Tracy Van Slyke's new book, Beyond the Echo Chamber: Reshaping Politics through Networked Progressive Media (New Press, 2010).