It's likely that the individual and entities which gain some insight from BINJ-in-a-Box have various kinds of operations in mind, and populations to serve, that are different from what we have in Boston.

But while none of us would preach that journalism incubators should take on some specific tone or another, or have a particular kind of politics, in our case it helped to have some guiding principles.

We strive to work in the tradition of independent and alternative journalists who, among other things, engage and in some cases belong to the communities that they report on. These and other threads of the BINJ fabric are on display throughout BINJ-in-a-Box, and are reflected in this passage from a research paper written about BINJ by a Harvard anthropology student who shadowed us for several months:

“Have you ever been around when the news truck shows up at the scene and they come out with the cameras, and the hair?” Chris cups his hand on top of his buzzed head and makes an exploding gesture to demonstrate what he means: big hair, local broadcast news hair. The six students at his media ethics class let out a timid laugh. Chris smiles, “Yeah, that’s not what we do.” Jason jokes, “That’s hair journalism,” brushing his middle-part hippie locks out of his eyes.

This was not the only time my interlocutors at BINJ talked about hair. Big, showy, well-groomed hair was part of what characterized mainstream news, and not just that. It characterized a lesser, though more dominant form of news, one that it is the job of the alternative newsmaker to resist. Chris would later tell me, “This joke that just because somebody puts on hair gel and drives around in a fucking truck with somebody with a camera is serious—they’re the farthest thing from serious imaginable. Showing up and not really knowing what’s going on and understanding a situation and talking about it? That’s the opposite of serious. It’s fucking fiction. And we see it constantly.”

Here, Chris laments that his lack of gelled hair and a news van prevents him from being taken as seriously as local TV news broadcasters, arguing in fact that it is a reason he should be taken more seriously. As Chris said, “That’s not what we do.” So what does the alternative news do? In this chapter, I take a closer look at what isn’t “hair journalism” about BINJ: an authentic rhetoric.