AlterNet is an online magazine featuring articles published in alternative and independent news sources. First launched in 1998, AlterNet is a project coordinated by the Independent Media Institute (IMI), a nonprofit organization committed to "strengthening and supporting independent and alternative journalism and to improving the public's access to independent information sources."
AlterNet includes a database of over 7,000 stories from more than 200 sources and is described as a "mix of news, opinion, and investigative journalism on subjects ranging from the environment, the drug war, technology, and cultural trends to policy debate, sexual politics, and health issues."
Access to archived articles is free. Recent issues of AlterNet and its articles are displayed on the "Archives" page. However, one must use the search engine provided by AlterNet in order to access previous issues. Keyword searching is the default option offered by AlterNet and controlled vocabulary is not used. Once a search is executed, a "search tips" option is available. Another interesting AlterNet option is the ability to search "Other Alt Sites."
A good feature included on AlterNet that has become somewhat of a standard with news sites is the option to subscribe to weekly headlines and newsletters. This is an effective tool for users who want to keep up-to-date on a variety of sources.
The Web site also offers another standard found in other news Web sites--discussion forums. Here, users are able to voice their opinions and debate with other users on a variety of topics.
The construction of the Web site makes it very easy to use. Although there is a lot of information presented, the site remains easily navigable. The basic format of the magazine's "front page" stays unchanged week to week by offering recurring sections such as "Quote of the Week," "Columnists," "The Content Files," "Fact of the Week," "Report of the Week," and "Multimedia."
AlterNet is one of several resources for alternative and independent news, but its attractive and consistent Web design makes it more efficient to use than many of the other sites. It is an exceptional tool for keeping up to date with the alternative side of a hot issue.
Mount Saint Mary College (N.Y.)