By Andrew Friedman
Alternative journalism is about redefinition, a new approach to the subjects and form that journalism has traditionally covered. In a way, it is like an analytical, historical record; but it’s one that records and considers society’s trends and culture as they happen, before they enter the mainstream and become watered down, before they become history.
Rather than losing itself in the daily journalism of crashes, crime and political speeches, alternative journalism puts events in context. Freed of the demand to be comprehensive, it can thoroughly, passionately tell one story.
Alternative journalism can be serious, investigative and in-depth, almost by definition. But there is equal freedom to write funny, or bizarre, or aggressive pieces. It is not diluted. It is often the sounding board for people who need a voice and for stories that slip through the cracks.
In fact, there is a mandate to find the stories that usually don’t get told. Observation and critical thought are more important than press releases.
A major defining trait is the simple fact that alternative journalism has personality. Individual voices speak from the pages. Opinions are mandatory. The form matches the themes. In alternative journalism, there is room to be a writer. It strives for literary quality prose, and encourages the plot, character and narrative techniques of fiction. It allows a writer to develop a certain style.
In our stories, we look for original angles. It can be in a brand new way to tell a story, or a different perspective, or a fresh subject. We look for voice, authority and creativity.
It is impossible to write a manual on “How to Write Alternative Journalism” because there are no rules. More than anything, we look for a great story. Great stories tell themselves.
Andrew Friedman was a staff writer for the Long Island Voice, an alternative weekly launched as a sister publication of New York’s Village Voice. It has since folded. Before graduating from Northwestern University in 1996, Friedman was an intern at The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Grand Rapids Press and Newsday. He freelanced for alternative culture and music magazines, edited the weekly arts and entertainment section of The Daily Northwestern.