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Abstract Deadline: 5 April 2020 | Full Article Deadline: 3 November 2020

Editorial Information

Oscar Westlund, Oslo Metropolitan University

Special Issue Editors:
Tine Ustad Figenschou, Oslo Metropolitan University
Lena Frischlich, Westphalian Wilhelms-University, Muenster
Kristoffer Holt, Gulf University for Science and Technology
Karoline Andrea Ihlebæk, Oslo Metropolitan University
Stephen Cushion, Cardiff University
Scott A. Eldridge II, University of Groningen



Digital Journalism

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Contesting the Mainstream: Understanding Alternative News Media

IN THE CURRENT DIGITAL MEDIA LANDSCAPE, marked by declining institutional trust, political polarization and cultural warfare, the rise of new alternative news media has received increased scholarly and political attention. This special issue of Digital Journalism will make a significant intervention into debates about the role and impact of alternative media, enhancing our understanding of their position in the wider digital media landscape.

In this special issue we take a relational approach to alternative news media, conceptualising it first and foremost as a proclaimed and/or (self-) perceived corrective, opposing the overall tendency of public discourse emanating from what is perceived as the dominant mainstream media in a given system (Holt et al. 2019, 862). This includes alternative news media propagating different political (e.g. left- as well as right-wing), religious (e.g. fundamentalist), or philosophical (e.g. animal rights) ideologies (Holt et al. 2019).

Studies show producers of alternative news actively counter the perceived ‘biased’, ‘corrupt’ and ‘lying’ mainstream media (Figenschou & Ihlebæk 2019). They capitalize on the increasing dissatisfaction and disengagement with mainstream news media (Cushion 2018), often positioning themselves as ‘better journalists’ (Eldridge, 2018). At the same time, the professionalization of some alternative news media organizations challenges the dichotomy between what might be seen as ‘alternative’ and ‘mainstream’ media. This calls for further research on the current spectrum of alternativeness spanning from mainstream to alternative news media (Frischlich, Klapproth, & Brinkschulte, in press).

The increased digitalization of public spheres prompts new and urgent questions about how people are informed about politics and public affairs. More people use sources outside of the established news media, particularly those with lower trust in the established news media (Newman et al, 2018). This calls for further contributions that avoid simplistic perceptions of these audiences and confront dystopian assumptions about effects with sound empirical and theoretical work.

THIS SPECIAL ISSUE OF DIGITAL JOURNALISM aims to deepen our understanding of the role and impact of digital alternative news media by addressing macro (i.e. regulatory systems, media policy), meso (i.e. production and distribution processes, relations to professional organizations) and micro (i.e. content, content producers/‘journalists’, users) perspectives about the growth and character of alternative news media. Beyond welcoming research covering alternative news media in the context of populist sentiments and far-right movements (i.e. Brexit, Trump), this issue specially invites contributions from non-Western cultural and political contexts, including non-democratic societies, the Global South and East.


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Submission Instructions

WE INVITE PAPERS that engage with one or more of the topics below, and encourage both theoretical and empirical contributions (using qualitative, quantitative, and/or computational methods), and both comparative and single-country studies.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Alternative news media on the macro level e.g. their systemic impact; role in non-democratic contexts; relationship to the establishment
  • Alternative news media on the meso level(s) e.g. their production, professionalization and ethics; entrepreneurships and business models; networks, actors and influencers
  • Alternative news on the micro level e.g. manifestations of partisanship; technology, algorithms and new formats; effects; uses and gratification of audiences

Information about submitting:

  Proposals should include the following: an abstract of 500-750 words (not including references) as well as background information on the author(s), including an abbreviated bio that describes previous and current research that relates to the special issue theme. Please submit your proposal as one file (PDF) with your names clearly stated in the file name and the first page.

  Send your proposal to Scott Eldridge at: [email protected] by 5 April, 2020, as stated in timeline below. Authors of accepted proposals are expected to develop and submit their original article, for full blind ­review, in accordance with the journal's peer-review procedure, by the deadline stated. Articles should be between 6 500 and 7 000 words in length. Guidelines for manuscripts can be found here. 


  • Abstract submission deadline: April 5, 2020
  • Notification on submitted abstracts: May 3, 2020
  • Article submission deadline: November 3, 2020