Founded in 1998 as a program of the Independent Media Institute, AlterNet is an online progressive news magazine that publishes original articles and also redistributes news stories from other independent media outlets. It receives some 2.7 million unique visitors each month.
AlterNet’s mission is “to inspire citizen action and advocacy” on a range of social and political issues, and its editorial philosophy is “to uphold a commitment to fairness, equality, and global stewardship, while making connections across generational, ethnic, and issue lines.” Toward these ends, AlterNet seeks to build a “progressive echo chamber” to combat “the right-wing media machine” that, by means of “an ideological propaganda model that results in a more ignorant audience,” has come “to dominate public discourse … at the expense of liberal and progressive values.”
The content of AlterNet’s website is divided into several major sections, with an emphasis on themes that paint highly negative portraits of conservatism, capitalism, corporations, traditional religious values, the United States, and the nation of Israel:
* The News & Politics section features articles denouncing the “demented” and “extremist” ideas of “lunatics” affiliated with “the Tea Party and the Right”; impugning the “obstructionism” of congressional Republicans; emphasizing the ubiquity of Republican scandals; depicting the Fox News Channel as a collection “right-wing propagandists”; hailing the superiority of “progressive values”; and lauding the purportedly noble agendas of the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street movement.
* The World section focuses heavily on alleged Israeli transgressions, such as the “grim” living conditions to which the Jewish state has long consigned Palestinians; the “humanitarian crisis” caused by “Israeli assault[s] on the Gaza Strip” (with no mention of the relentless Palestinian terrorism that invariably causes the conflicts); and Israel’s long history of “war crimes,” “indiscriminate shelling,” “murder,” “forced relocations,” “torture,” “apartheid,” “inhumane acts,” and “genocide.”
* The Economy section features articles which contend that America spends “relatively little on poverty programs”; that the high incomes of “the richest 1%” in the U.S. are “a national disgrace”; that massive tax hikes on “big corporations and the rich” constitute the best means of addressing “the extreme inequality of wealth and power” that lies at “the root of our current economic distress”; and that capitalist economic systems generally reward the greedy while undercompensating people whose work is of far greater “worth to society,” such as social workers, personal-care aides, childcare workers, and kindergarten teachers.
* The Rights section highlights such matters as “egregious Republican attacks on women”; the current income-tax system’s inequities against females; the need to expand abortion rights; the criminal-justice system’s racism against “blacks and Latinos”; the “hate,” “fear,” and “xenophobia” that conservatives commonly display toward immigrants; the “cruel [American] immigration politices” that separate “tens of thousands of parents from their children”; America’s “bloated prison system and its tremendous financial and moral cost to our society”; and progressives’ commitment to “compassion in public policy.”
* The Environment section sounds the alarm vis à vis such matters as “runaway climate change,” the “catastrophe” of “global warming,” and the many dangers and negative consequences of hydraulic fracturing.
* The Media & Culture section contains not only popular-interest stories about music, movies, lifestyles, vacation spots, and relationship issues, but also pieces emphasizing America’s allegedly intransigent racism, the urgent need for “more government spending,” and the deleterious effects of “corporatization” on industries like healthcare and hospice.
* The Living section includes:
(a) a Belief subsection that addresses: the threat posed by the “religious right,” the injustice of tax breaks for faith-based organizations, and the widespread “prejudice” and “Islamophobia” that Muslim Americans encounter on a daily basis;
(c) a Food subsection claiming that factors like the “nonstop stress” and “lack of universal health care” associated with life in America “encourag[e] obesity”; that the preponderance of “unhealthy menu items” in chain restaurants is “horrifying”; and that fast-food chain restaurants oppose “worker justice” measures like paid sick days for their employees.
For information on additional sections of the AlterNet website, click here.
Among the noteworthy individuals whose writings have been published by AlterNet are Noam Chomsky, Joe Conason, Tom Engelhardt, Amy Goodman, Glenn Greenwald, Arianna Huffington, Paul Krugman, Michael Lerner, Bill Moyers, Michael Ratner, Robert Reich, Robert Scheer, and Norman Solomon.
In 2002 AlterNet published a book titled After 9/11: Solutions for a Saner World, a collection of 42 articles contributed by such authors as Marc Cooper, Barbara Ehrenreich, Richard Falk, Arianna Huffington, Michael Klare, Naomi Klein, Barbara Lee, Bill Moyers, Robert Reich, Joel Rogers, Arundhati Roy, Edward Said, Katrina vanden Heuvel, and Stephen Zunes.
Two years later, AlterNet published Start Making Sense: Turning the Lessons of Election 2004 into Winning Progressive Politics. This book featured interviews with notables like MoveOn.org co-founder Wes Boyd and SEIU president Andrew Stern. It also contained articles by blogger Markos Moulitsas Zuniga and then-Illinois Congressman Barack Obama.
In 2010 Alternet published Dangerous Brew: Exposing the Tea Party’s Agenda to Take Over America, which purports to reveal “everything you need to know about the right’s latest plan to destroy America.”
Alternet’s executive editor is Don Hazen, who also serves as executive director of the Independent Media Institute. He is the former publisher of Mother Jones magazine, and he helped manage the political campaigns of New York City Democrats like Ruth Messinger and David Dinkins in the 1970s and ’80s.
AlterNet is financed through individual donations, advertising revenue, and grants from charitable foundations. Among its larger funders are the Arca Foundation, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, the Bauman Family Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Four Freedoms Fund, the Funding Exchange, the Glaser Progress Foundation, the McKay Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy, the Threshold Foundation, the Town Creek Foundation, the Wallace Global Fund, and Working Assets.
Information on funders was obtained in part from the Foundation Center.