The rising expense of everything from paper to postage has hollowed out community media over the past decades. Now, however, inflationary costs and attacks by the powerful put small periodicals under even greater siege. In the U.S., two close every week.
For the Left, including the Freedom Socialist Party (FSP), this is a critical situation, because our written message is key to movement-building.
A powerful weapon. Every successful drive for change in recent centuries has had a publication at its center.
Ida B. Wells-Barnett was a Black investigative journalist who, at the turn of the last century, used her medium to decry lynchings. She exposed the racist violence in the South that followed Reconstruction after the Civil War, and her writings launched an impactful anti-lynching campaign.
Wells-Barnett was following the tradition of reporters from Black-owned publications of an earlier generation who were crucial in inspiring and spreading the anti-slavery movement.
Thousands of radical and labor journals flourished in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They were instrumental in abolishing debtors’ prisons and in winning the 10-hour day and public education. They were key to labor strikes. During the famed 1934 Minneapolis Teamsters strike, The Organizer, issued daily, did as its name implied. The Seattle Union Record rallied workers to that city’s 1919 general strike.
Another boom in the alternative press came in the 1960s. Underground tabloids helped to build anti-Vietnam War activism and radical consciousness. Women’s and gay periodicals boosted feminism and LGBTQ+ pride.
News deserts. In contrast to the proliferation of local and social-change-oriented presses in the past, today the opposite is true. Many such publications are disappearing or cutting back to online service only.
Spiking costs are a big reason. Inflation has hit every aspect of production, with the price of paper jumping by 30% in just two years. Shortages of supplies and services hit hard. In Seattle, two of three mills no longer manufacture newsprint. The Freedom Socialist (FS), headquartered there, has searched for a printer as far away as New York.
Political hostility, usually of the right-wing variety, adds to the problem. First Amendment experts point to a troubling trend of wealthy and powerful people using defamation law as retribution. Public officials unhappy with coverage can sue a publication into oblivion. Or the U.S. government can exert a chilling effect in the media generally, as it has done through its persecutions of whistleblowers Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning.
The New York Times may have the money to fight this kind of censorship in court (if it chooses to); newspapers operating on a shoestring do not.
The voice of revolutionary feminism. The FS newspaper follows in the vein of journalism that exists to advance social progress. The Bolshevik press Pravda (Truth) mobilized millions to the banner of the 1917 Russian Revolution, which freed workers and peasants from both the tsar and the capitalists. The FS is a vital part of the FSP’s efforts to nurture a revolutionary movement in our own time.
Like Pravda, the FS is made by and for workers. It provides an unadulterated working-class viewpoint, an outlook that is suppressed in the mainstream media.
Our journalists are unionists, reproductive justice fighters, campaigners against police brutality, and queer and trans organizers. The paper’s content is enriched by first-hand reports from Mexico, Argentina, Cuba, Ukraine, Australia, Afghanistan, Iran, and more. Its feminist, anti-racist foundation shines through every piece.
The FS has been published continuously since 1976. To reach the widest possible audience, it currently comes out in digital, print, and audio formats. The pieces published on its pages do double duty; they are also on the socialism.com website. This enables FSP’s insurgent message to travel far and wide.
Bucking the trend, the FS plans to continue producing its print edition. For one thing, the editorial board is keenly aware that not everyone has online access. This can be especially true for those living in poverty, who the FS very much wants to continue to reach.
In fact, the print FS is getting a new look, coming to you within the next few issues. The refreshed, airier version will have slightly smaller pages with more topics covered in shorter articles. Our quality reporting and insightful analysis will expand into new areas. We warmly thank those who made this improvement possible with contributions specially dedicated to the redesign.
For a publication with no advertising revenue, the Freedom Socialist has come far. But, in these pinched economic times, the support of readers like you who subscribe and donate is more crucial than ever — it’s key to the paper’s survival. We believe our socialist feminist viewpoint is vital to working-class resistance and victory, and we hope you do too.
Ways you can help:
- Participate in the October subscription drive — take advantage of deals! Renew your sub, give gift subs, and sell subs to friends. See the ad box below or visit socialism.com/subscribe/.
- Become a Friend of the FS with a monthly contribution, or make a one-time donation.
- Volunteer to distribute the FS in your area. Get in touch via FSnews@socialism.com.
And remember, we want your letters to the editor and your opinions. This paper is for you.