I was in a room full of liberals. In a room full community-radio-loving, Hot Tuna listening liberals. Wall-to-wall with dreaded hair, horned-rimmed glasses and carabiner clips. I mean, these are good people (I consider myself to be a part of Utah's liberal community): They probably recycle, and they probably buy local first. They all probably listen to RadioActive after Democracy Now!, but when was the last time they were really politically engaged? When was the last time they handed out literature or questioned their own political perspective? This was the message Amy Goodman left us with—to demand change, to make change—not to wait for it.
Partnered as a fundraiser for KRCL, Goodman spoke at the Rose Wagner theater on Oct. 29 about her fifth and most recent book, The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance, and Hope. Written with Denis Moynahan, a behind-the-scenes contributor to Democracy Now!, the book “provide[s] a vivid record of the events, conflicts, and social movements shaping our society today. They give voice to ordinary people standing up to corporate and government power across the country and around the world,” the synopsis of the book reads.
Goodman took the audience through the last couple years of significant political events in the US and abroad. Starting from Democracy Now!'s third-party presidential debate, Goodman fleshed out the flaws that exist in modern journalism. Starting with the makeup and history of televised presidential debates, Goodman went into detail on subjects such as: the relationship between (I know that sounds a little iconoclastic, but do your own research on the subject and come to your own conclusion) the consolidation of media institutions, the lack of investigative journalism in the US and the embedding of journalists in US military camps (a practice established relatively recent). Goodman's solution to it all? Small, independent media sources throughout the US (e.g. KRCL) that demand the resurrection of the “fourth estate.”
Democracy Now!, now in its 16th year, strives to be a voice of independence in a world saturated by corporate-sponsored news. What started broadcasting from 12 radio stations now broadcasts from 1,100 radio stations across the world and is now evolved into a nightly television show. According to Goodman, what makes Democracy Now! different from other news sources is their persistence to tell the story from the ground level, rather than reporting from newsrooms or “undisclosed hotel rooms” (a reference to the Anderson Cooper's presence in Egypt during Arab Spring). Those working for Democracy Now! are unafraid of becoming part of the news in order to cover the news. This is exactly what happened during the week of the 2008 Republican National Convention.
I remember that week very well. I had just started an internship with the county mayoral race and was writing for the Daily Chronicle. I listened to Democracy Now! the day Goodman was arrested by police for “obstructing a legal process.” Simply because she wanted to see, her producers were beaten and arrested by police while covering a small riot in St. Paul. Soon after her arrest, most major news organization picked up the story. KRCL was giving regular updates on Goodman’s arrest status, and Bad Brad Wheeler was playing songs about solidarity. Because of Democracy Now! and KRCL, I felt engaged in something that was thousands of miles away. I continue to feel engaged, thanks to KRCL, from the protests in Wisconsin in 2011 to their coverage of local races. Goodman brought the conversation full circle, expressing her frustration with the level of excessive police force used in 2008 and how, through their legal efforts, were able to mandate a change in St. Paul's riot strategies to ensure they protect the rights of reporters.
Because of the Hurricane Sandy, more than half the lecture was dedicated to the storm hitting the East Coast. Goodman discussed the sheer size of the storm, how it was affecting the their ability to broadcast from New York, the term “Frankenstorm,” etc. Much of the discussion surrounded the absence of climate change and climate research in the news. At the present moment (a day later), the news is still saturated with body counts, property damage, statements from politicians, pundits analysis of how it will affect the election, but very few have taken up the topic of climate change. There are plenty of meteorologists in rain slickers on the shore, patronizing viewers with imagery of the storm-beaten reporter out on the field, but there are very few climate scientists pressing the issues of willful change. I wouldn't say the press is willfully ignoring climate change—I'd expect they’re saving that kind of dry analysis for their Sunday pre-taped specials like 60 Minutes or Fareed Zakaria GPS. What a shame.
Tune into Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, Monday through Friday from 7-8 p.m. on KRCL, 90.9 FM.