AAN Corrects Sen. Bernie Sanders on Comments About Alt-Weeklies

Aug. 11, 2009

The Honorable Sen. Bernie Sanders
332 Dirksen Building, U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Sanders:

Yesterday on Huffington Post you wrote: “Even the alternative weekly newspapers, traditionally a bastion of progressive thought and analysis, have been bought by a monopoly franchise and made a predictable shift to the right in their coverage of local news.” This comment was inaccurate on at least two counts.

First, although it is true that like many publications in the past twenty years, some alternative newsweeklies have been acquired by chains, to label any of them a “monopoly franchise” is wildly off-the-mark. As you know, monopolies are characterized by a lack of competition. There isn’t an alternative newspaper in North America — the overwhelming majority of which, unlike the mainstream press, are privately held and therefore not beholden to shareholders — that doesn’t face intense competition on a daily basis in the markets they serve.

Second, there isn’t a single member of our organization — including those that are now chain-owned — that has made ‘a predictable shift to the right in their coverage of the local news.” Quite the contrary, although their coverage isn’t partisan, alternative newspapers across North America are still often among the few publications in their communities that consistently offer a progressive viewpoint on issues like poverty, racism, health-care reform and environmental sustainability. There are many examples we could point to, but perhaps this one sums it up best: In 2008, at least 57 alternative newspapers made endorsements for president and all 57 threw their support to Barack Obama.

It is especially ironic that you would make such a inaccurate statement given that Seven Days, the alternative newspaper that serves your constituents in Burlington, Vt., is a vital, progressive, independent voice that has supported you and your causes since its inception. In fact, you invited the paper’s co-owner, Paula Routly, to serve as a panelist in your town-hall forum on media reform in February 2007.

We would be happy to provide your office with complimentary subscriptions to a wide variety of alternative newspapers so you can see for yourself that despite the huge disruptions our businesses have faced this decade and the many changes we have made, we are still the “bastions of progressive thought and analysis” of yore.

Best regards,

Mark Zusman

Richard Karpel
Executive Director

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