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Its demand for immediate, as opposed to 32 Alternatives on media content, journalism, and regulation gradual, emancipation moved from the outer fringe to the core of the abolitionist movement, and then to national policy with the Emancipation Proclamation. Its uncompromising voice spread well beyond abolitionists to inspire and inform early women’s rights activists and many others. It even bequeathed us the term “Garrisonian,” an adjective first used to describe the most militant brand of abolitionism, and later generalized to indicate an uncompromising willingness to speak one’s mind on social justice issues, regardless of the consequences.

This accounts for the conspicuous failure of most movement journals to outlast the particular social and political context in which they emerged, and the ease with which they are often replaced by new journals more in tune with the times. Mother Earth News would be one of the very rare exceptions to this pattern: emerging from the widespread “back to the land” movement of the 1970s, the journal managed to transition from an activist-run journal to a professional enterprise without losing focus on its core social and political objectives.

Emergent, which essentially means out of control. There was no way to predict the blogosphere, for example. We used to know what was coming down the pike. That doesn’t work any longer. I haven’t mentioned the blogosphere yet which, perhaps, best represents the transition from old media to new. The universe of progressive blogs has anywhere from two to four million visitors. They are a powerful force in the echo chamber. Some do topnotch journalism. For example, Talking Points Memo has a large influence and uses its readership to greatly enhance its research and accountability capacity.

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