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People's Movements, People's Press

The Journalism of Social Justice Movements

Author: Bob Ostertag

A fascinating look at five social movements and how the newspapers and journals produced by activists advanced their causes

America was born in an act of rebellion, and protest and dissent have been crucial to our democracy ever since. Along the way, movements for social justice have created a wide array of pamphlets, broadsides, newsletters, newspapers, and even glossy magazines. In People’s Movements, People’s Press, Bob Ostertag brings this hidden history to light, examining the publications of the abolitionist, woman suffrage, gay and lesbian, and environmental movements, as well as the underground GI press during the Vietnam War. This fascinating story takes us from the sparse, privately owned media environment of the nineteenth century to the corporate media saturation of the present.

Within these publications, we find powerful debates about the direction of a movement; impassioned cries for rights and civil liberties; lonely voices reaching out to others after being alienated by the mainstream press and the unaccepting world around them; and demands that now seem surprisingly reasonable but were at one time quite revolutionary. With both plain language and rigorous scholarship, Ostertag tells the story not only of the publications but the many colorful characters who created them.

The story of the social justice movement press is deeply intertwined with the story of the movements themselves. In fact, Ostertag shows how reliance on the printed word fundamentally shaped what we now know as social movements. People’s Movements, People’s Press, then, offers a new view—from the ground up—of social transformation in America and raises the question of how social movements will change as they move from print to the Internet as their primary means of communication.

As large corporations take over every media outlet available, People’s Movements, People’s Press reminds us of the great value and historical importance of independent, activist-driven media.


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“” People’s Movements, People’s Press was published in collaboration with the Independent Press Association. The IPA promotes and supports independent publications committed to social justice and a free press.

The IPA amplifies the power of independent publications so as to foster a more just, open and democratic society. Through their programs, the IPA helps its 500+ member magazines and newspapers learn from each other, reduce, costs and reach a wider audience.

Current IPA programs include: Indy Press Newsstand Services, Campus Journalism Project, George Washington Williams Fellowship, The Independent Press Development Fund, The Ink Reader, IPA Chicago, IPA New York, Online Publishers Forum, Technical Assistance Manual Series, and the Independent Magazine Circulation Database Template.
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“Bob Ostertag has written a book that reminds us that while the journalism world watches daily deals involving billions of dollars, and circulation wars highlight global battles between giants like Rupert Murdoch and William Randolph Hearst, the movers and shakers of major social change have come as often as not from tiny specialized journals that have sneaked under the radar on real issues like the start of women’s rights, the gay and lesbian revolution, and early voting rights in the South. People’s Movements, People’s Press tells this neglected story of dramatic personalities and the historic birth of our modern rights.” -Ben H. Bagdikian, author of The New Media Monopoly


Review: Z Magazine - September 1, 2006
“Any progressive activist will learn from the book, and any media activist will feel proud to be following the lead of the brave and principled “accidental journalists” it chronicles.”
Review: Columbia Journalism Review - July 19, 2006
"The value of his [Ostertag] approach lies in the skill with which he combines the history of the journalism of such movements with the history of the movements themselves."
Review: Publishers Weekly - April 10, 2006
"Ostertag's succinct, well-paced study, growing out of a report commissioned by the Independent Press Association, reveals the 'crucial and neglected' role they and other "social movement" journals have played, and still do, in bringing about social change."
Review by: Eric Alterman, author of What Liberal Media? - January 18, 2006
"People's Movements, People's Press is an extremely useful intervention into the historical debate of the meanings of journalism, democracy, and their various uses and complications. Its measured tone and extensive research are particularly welcome, given the potential volatility of the topic. Highly recommended."
Review by: Robert McChesney, author of The Problem of the Media - January 18, 2006
"Bob Ostertag's People's Movements, People's Press fills a gaping hole both in our understanding of social movements and our understanding of the relationship of journalism to democracy. This is a wonderful book and a delightful read that deserves the attention of all who care about journalism and social justice."
Review by: Eric Foner, author of The Story of American Freedom - January 18, 2006
"From abolitionists and early feminists to today's gay and environmental publications, Bob Ostertag tells the fascinating story of the oppositional press in America. This is a piece of our history that everyone concerned about the past and future of our democracy needs to know."
Review by: Frances Piven, author of The War at Home - January 18, 2006
"A wonderfully illuminating book. Movements are in large part about communication, and the journalistic efforts of the abolitionists, the women who fought for the right to vote, the environmentalists, and the gay liberation and Vietnam antiwar movements bring the hopes and moral outrage that fueled these movements to life."

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People's Movements, People's Press

ISBN: 978-080706164-0
Publication Date: 6/1/2006
Pages: 228
Size: x Inches (US)
Price:  $23.95
Format: Cloth
Availability: In stock.
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