The Online Alternative

Submitted by naught101 on Fri, 01/27/2006 - 00:00

Your guide to internet media. It's free! (yes, both of them)

ned haughton


username: > opused

password: > ********

welcome to > GET

welcome to


Opus is a real voice for students, but one that is going to get fainter if we don't continue to fight. VSU is set in place, ready to be implemented in second semester, and this may be our last year of a reasonably well funded Student Newspaper.

For the past few years, opus has cost around $10,000 for each print run, this year we have managed to squeeze it back to around $3200 per issue, mostly by cutting the physical size of the magazine to 240 x 170mm (what you now hold in your hands), but also by cutting the print run from 3,000 to 2,500, and reducing the number of pages (most editions will be about 48 pages).


This year we still have some funding, next year, we expect to have a fraction of that. This is the reason that we are setting up the website at The website, like the print edition of Opus, gives all students the opportunity to write about issues affecting them. In addition to this, also gives student an opportunity to comment on articles, and make their point known on the forums. It also allows students to comment on, or reply to, articles, reviews, fiction pieces, and art from the print edition of Opus, which will all be available on the website too. Best of all, it costs us next to nothing.


This is also the reason why I am writing a guide to online media. There are many good things about online media and journalism. It's varied, unlike most mass media you read (the tabloids, or the national broadsheets, or the nightly TV news). It's from a variety of sources, which means you are most likely to get your facts straight. It's free (or at least the best bits are); Those that aren't can be bypassed.. read on. Also, last but not least, you can write it yourself.


The best of the Online corporate media.

Always take online corporate media with a pinch of salt. The mass media is what nearly everyone reads and watches to keep up with world news, and national news. That's probably the best reason to keep an eye open in this part of the news world. Be careful though, all is not always as it seems. Some of these companies have huge vested interest in any number of stories. Some, Murdoch news sources especially, will go out of their way to describe one side of the story as the true one, and block all other debate.


It's relatively easy to find the most well known corporate News services on the web. They all have websites, and relatively easy ones to find. If you can't find them, a quick search on any search engine will get you where you want to be.


One handy tool is Google News, which acts a a kind of reference library for internet news. Just go to, and search for something and it comes up with a bunch of links to news items on a variety of different news services (most of the corporate).


If you want to find out more about any major news service, check out Wikipedia. It has information on the history of nearly every major news company, including, sometimes, who own who, and past unscrupulousness. Check out for a (nearly) complete list.


There isn't really much in the way of online corporate journalism in the Hunter. The Newcastle Herald has a website (, but it's pretty useless.


Nearly all of the corporate news websites make you pay to view their archives. Most have recent stories for free, but some charge ridiculous amounts for just a few hundred words. Best way to deal with this? There are two.


Free Corporate News

Never pay for your news again. The Uni does for you! Being a uni student gives you access to a huge amount of information on otherwise extremely expensive member-only databases. You can find a complete list at Check out Factiva for lots and lots of newspaper archives. A great way to learn your most hated company's dirty secrets. Or do your Uni work. meh.


The second way is a relatively simple system that, rather oddly, seems to work, and for anyone, not just Uni students. Check out BugMeNot! - It's basically a database of usernames and passwords. Anyone with a login for a members-only site can post their details at BMN, and share them with the rest of the world. Feel free to add your own if you can afford it, but I'd suggest not using your normal username and password.


An Eye on the truth

There are a number of sites that watch new services for dodgy practice. Always a good idea to check who's telling the truth, and who's counting their cash.


Media Watch

The ABC's sometimes introspective media watch-dog. Great for keeping up to date with all the lying scum in the media. And the odd funny mistake.



A corporation watchdog run by the not-for-profit American organisation PRWatch. SW has information on any number of dirty corporate secrets. It's a wiki too, which means you can edit it as you like. This tends to mean that only the more public, interesting stuff gets the spotlight, but if you have something want to know more about, or want people to know, start an article here.


Alternative/Not-for-profit Online Media

There are a number of not-for-profit media outfits that run stuff on the 'net. Considering they are not usually tied up with big-business advertising, they can present a range of fresh, individual views on any number of


Green Left Weekly

the Green Left is an Australian newspaper run in league with the socialist alliance. It's name makes it kind of obvious what it's intentions are. It's website is also a great place to go for a view on whatever social justice-relevant story you don't think you've heard both sides of in the mass media. It can be a little slow to update sometimes, especially over the summer break, apparently.


Student Media

Not exactly a news website, Student Media is the umbrella group that links all the student newspapers across the country. The site a number of good links, and is worth checking out if you feel like getting involved.


There's a short list of independent media at


Write your own

Add the the seething miasma of news and information on the internet, and get your point across.



Indymedia is the mother of all independent news on the 'net. Indymedia originally started in 1999, as part of the anti-globalisation movement confronting the World Trade Organisation meeting in Seattle, in the November of that year. The project grew from the original website, to include smaller satellites from different countries and cities. Despite only having started in a few years ago, Indymedia now has hundreds of small, localized Independent Media Centers (IMC), all over the world.

Indymedia presents a left-libertarian, anti-globalisation view of the world. It's stated aims are rejection of corporate globalisation, and rejection of all bigoted policies that work with the system, it aims to help create a free, critical-thinking, and decentralised society, through broadcasting alternative messages in the media.

Indy media is an open to anyone who wants help out, and that anyone can write for it. There are some restrictions on the writing, but if you're interested in alternative media, they probably won't bother you. The Copyright of anything you do write remains in you hands, as the IMCs are a broadcasting medium only, not a news corporation.

The most useful IMCs for us are: - the international site - the Indymedia Oceania portal site, and - the Sydney IMC.



Originally an offshoot of Wikipedia, Wikinews runs on the same principals, that is it's free, and anyone can write it. Unlike Indymedia, anything you write on Wikinews is released into the public domain on publishing, under the GNU General Public Licence (a copy of which can be found on the site). Nearly all the news items here are written by ordinary people like you and me, with information either sourced from outside news services (and referenced), or written first hand.


Wikinews is still in it's infancy, but it's popularity is growing along with that of it's parent site. Wikipedia also has information on event-type news like disasters, elections (same shit different smell), etc.


Print it yourself

Lastly, maybe you have some news that needs to be put out to the local community. Bet you can't afford thousands of dollars a pop for the latest Adobe or Microsoft design and layout software packages. You're a student, that goes without saying. So you're left with two options: piracy, or free software.


Five or six years ago if you'd asked a designer or publisher to point you to some free software, they would have given you a long, blank stare, and probably thought you were an idiot. These days many still would, but with the huge uptake in open-source software over the last few years, they'd be the ones in the dark.


Open source software is basically software that gets coded and released with the source code, and generally for free. What this means is that anyone with a bit of programming knowledge can get in on the act and improve the software. What this means for YOU is lots of quality, free software packages for doing anything you want, including writing, design, and layout of your own magazines or flyers.


These programs will help you do just that. They are all originally designed for Linux (the open-source competitor of Windows), but now all work on Mac OSX and Windows as well. All of them are free to download.


The open-source alternative to Microshaft office. Does everything office does, but in open formats.


The Gimp

No, it's not a sex slave, it's the GNU Image Manipulation Program. It's the most widely known and highly regarded open-source raster (photos and stuff) image editor. Basically similar to Photoshop, but sixteen hundred bucks cheaper. It's still missing a couple of features, as it's only up to version 2.2.3, but it does some things even better than it's commercial cousins.


Inkscape (how did you guess?)

Similar to Illustrator, this is a vector (line work) image editor, which is relatively easy to learn. It works on xml open format SVG files, but can save to EPS files too (the ones you need for printing). Inkscape is still taking baby steps, but is definitely adequate for web design, and will do nearly anything you need for print design purposes.



Scribus is the InDesign killer; it's for the layout of your propaganda. Scribus has only just been ported to Windows, but it's been around for a bit on Linux (it's currently Version 1.3.4). It does everything you need to get your writing a graphics collated and ready to send to the printers.


Don't have the money to print? Ask NUSA or the Octapod... you never know your luck.


The End

Now you have all you need to get informed, and write your articles, and you even have the means to get it printed. All I ask in return is that you don't forget Opus! We need your news, you articles, your fiction, poetry, ramblings, doodles, and artwork. Now you have the means, the world, and especially this small, printed part of it, is your slimy marine mollusc. Go for it.


originally published in opus (newie student rag) O(rientation)book, 2006.