In the 1980s, 50 companies in total owned about 90% of American media, from newspapers, to music, to TV, to movies. Today, that landscape has been winnowed down even more – of all the media Americans consume for entertainment, information, or education, 90% of it is owned by just six companies. You probably already know the names of most of “The Big Six”: Disney, Viacom, Time Warner, CBS, GE, and News Corp.
Even with media institutions outside this massive monopoly, corporate control plays a huge factor. The Washington Post, an historic newspaper that gets between 55-85 million clicks on its website every month, is owned by none other than Jeff Bezos, perhaps the world’s most notorious billionaire and union-buster.
Under capitalism, news, like everything else, is a way for a small handful of people to make billions of dollars. Concretely, this means there is a huge void of institutions who write about the things that are important to the lives of working class people.
How Corporate-Owned Media Fails Us
Just to take an example, about four million American workers are teachers in public schools. Growing classroom sizes have been a daily battle for these teachers, as the amount of students they’re responsible for continually increases and the attention they can give to each diminishes. And yet, the last time the country’s leading newspaper, the New York Times, wrote a story about how this problem plagues teachers was five years ago, in 2019. And even then, the story only got written because Los Angeles teachers went on strike in part to win smaller class sizes.
The media landscape is worse, still, for teenagers and young people. News and media designed for teenagers rarely deals with the reality of the pressures of being a young person today, and in fact, is often the cause of them. TikTok and Instagram endlessly feed young people new trends that they have to go out and buy, as well as content that warps body image and self-perception, and they often silence or “shadowban” content about more serious issues that teenagers are perfectly capable of understanding and caring about.
Bleakest still is the way corporate-owned media reports on the political field. Under their cameras and microphones, protesters demanding racial justice are deemed “rioters.” The reality of the American political ‘spectrum’, where supermajorities support both Medicare for All and a $15 minimum wage, is consistently ignored. By giving air time to either Republicans or Democrats on any given day, they clamor to proclaim themselves “unbiased” media.
But they are biased – towards maintaining the world we already live in, one where working-class people are straining under the weight of poverty, war, and systemic oppression.
Our Class Needs Media Of Our Own
Being a working-class paper means taking a firm stance – that the way things are doesn’t serve us, that we deserve a better world that runs in the interests of the majority of people, and crucially, that we can win one.
The very first issue of Socialist Alternative was published in 2013. That issue featured on its cover three socialists running for local office in three cities – Seattle, Minneapolis, and Boston – on a platform of a $15 minimum wage and building truly independent working-class politics. Despite how these campaigns electrified working-class voters who were desperate for a political alternative to the two-party system, the corporate media had little interest in discussing these socialist candidates – not until one of them won, Socialist Alternative member Kshama Sawant, in Seattle.
Even despite that stunning victory, corporate media is only interested in talking about working-class movements as a far-away curiosity. As working-class people who want to win a better world, we need more than that. We need serious organizations and media institutions where our experiences can be discussed, debated, and sharpened, to help us understand the world we live in and fight to build a new one.
As the paper of a real fighting organization, with branches all over the country, we have written articles from the ground of some of the biggest struggles of our time. We have written from the mass movement to fight against the gutting of public unions in Wisconsin in 2011, to the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted in 2014, to their dramatic re-emergence in 2020, to the feminist marches of 2016 and 2017, to the wave of teachers’ strikes in 2018 and 2019, and today from the protests against the appalling war on Gaza. The people who write for Socialist Alternative are not columnists – we are bus drivers, nurses, teachers, servers, carpenters, baristas, flight attendants, librarians, and more. Our articles are written by working parents, high school students, retired union workers, and everyone in between.
This paper is the instrument through which, over more than a decade, hundreds of articles have been written about the realities of working-class life: why it feels like nobody can get a job, how racist city curfews are keeping young people from public life, what the loss of child tax credit money meant for working parents, and why eggs cost so damn much for so long. All of these were written from the perspective of people experiencing these struggles, not just looking at them from afar.
Now, more than ten years since that first copy in 2013, we’re publishing our 100th issue – not just of a newspaper, but of an instrument of struggle. Many people subscribe to our paper, but most people who read us don’t find it at their doorstep – they pick up copies at protests and public meetings, at streetcorner tables, and through conversation with their coworkers. This newspaper is the physical tool through which, over many years, hundreds of people have been convinced to join the fight for a better world – a socialist world.
From our very first issue of Socialist Alternative to our hundredth, and on to many more – if you want to be part of the struggle towards a world that is run by and for working people, this paper is for you.