• Amy Goodman -- Democracy Now!

    From (David P.)@21:1/5 to All on Wed Nov 17 00:00:04 2021
    People-Powered Journalism
    by Marina N. Bolotnikova, NOV-DEC 2021, Harvard Magazine

    WITH 20 YEARS OF HINDSIGHT, to many the U.S. war in
    Afghanistan looks tragically ill-conceived. But in the
    wake of 9/11, critics of the invasion, when they were
    heard at all, were regarded as naive, even un-American.
    Amy Goodman ’84, host of the independent TV & radio news
    hour Democracy Now!, was one of the earliest journalists
    to focus on the human toll of the war. In Jan 2002, the
    show hosted a dialogue between Masuda Sultan, an Afghan-
    American woman whose family members had recently been
    killed by U.S. bombing, & Rita Lasar, an anti-war activist
    who lost her brother in the 9/11 attacks. George W. Bush
    invoked her brother’s heroism—he had stayed in the World
    Trade Center to help his quadriplegic friend—in a speech
    given after the attacks. “Rita Lasar realized at that
    moment her brother would be used to justify an attack on
    Afghanistan,” Goodman recalls. “And she said, ‘Not in my
    name. Not in my brother’s name.’” The interview was one of
    the most memorable—& prophetic—moments in Democracy Now’s
    history, & it reflects what Goodman sees as media’s highest
    purpose. “It’s that kind of dialogue that will save the
    world,” she insists.

    In 2021, the idea of a live daily news show might seem
    old-fashioned. But Democracy Now!, a scrappy, donor-
    supported media organization that Goodman has led for
    25 years, continues to feel current—even with its dated
    graphic design & retro funk-rock theme music, unchanged
    since the 90s. Goodman’s vision has remained the same:
    “I see the media as a huge kitchen table that stretches
    across the globe, that we all sit around & debate &
    discuss the most important issues of the day,” she says.
    “War & peace, life & death. Anything less than that is a
    disservice to a democratic society.”

    Democracy Now’s growth has been fueled by her instinct
    for under-covered stories of national importance. In 2016,
    she reported from the Dakota Access oil pipeline protests
    in North Dakota, helping put them on the national agenda.
    “There are a lot of people who work in the mainstream media
    who are listening & watching Democracy Now!,” says journal-
    ist Maria Hinojosa, who hosts the radio program Latino USA.
    “And then they take those stories & make them into national
    stories.” The show has often been called a progressive news
    program, but Goodman shies away from ideological labels,
    preferring to call it “corporate-free” & “people-sponsored.” “Hearing people speak for themselves,” she says, “there’s
    just nothing more powerful.” Her journalistic precept,
    which she champions at every interview & public speech,
    is “to go to where the silence is.”

    Goodman’s rejection of corporate advertising & neutral,
    “both-sides” journalism, & her disinterest in personality-
    driven media, have—somewhat ironically—won her a loyal
    following. Millions of viewers tune into the show from
    1,500 TV & radio stations around the world, as well as on
    YouTube & Democracy Now’s website, which had 46.3 million
    visits last year. “It’s funny because she’s so popular
    with young people, but she’s like the epitome of an old-
    school journalist,” says David Isay, founder of the oral
    history nonprofit StoryCorps, who got his start working with
    Goodman. “The average age in her audience is probably 21.”

    “She’s not interested in being a celebrity. It’s not about
    getting rich, it’s not about her Twitter following,” Isay
    continues (Goodman doesn’t have a Twitter account). “It’s
    just about uncovering the truth.”

    GOODMAN’S ON-SCREEN PERSONA can appear intimidating,
    but off air, she is all warmth & idealism. She lives in
    Manhattan with her puppy, Zazou, named after France’s
    WWII-era anti-Nazi youth culture. “She's a French anti-
    fascist freedom-fighting biting Zuchon,” Goodman explains.
    She's also vegan & has been vegetarian since she was a
    teenager in the mid-70s. “I deeply feel the connection
    to all life on the planet,” she says. “And I feel a
    deep responsibility, every day on the show & in my life,
    to show those interconnections.”

    Goodman’s sense of obligation to a different community
    than is typically considered in American media is evident
    in Democracy Now’s focus on atrocities that the U.S. has
    inflicted around the world. “Our global perspective is
    very unusual in the U.S. media,” Goodman says. “I think
    our country is an amalgam of people from all over the
    world & they're very interested in the rest of the world.”
    In 1991, she & her colleague Allan Nairn were beaten by
    Indonesian soldiers (Nairn sustained a fractured skull)
    while reporting on Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor.
    Her work helped bring international attention to the
    genocide taking place there, which was aided, she always
    stresses, by weapons supplied by the U.S. to the
    Indonesian military.

    She links her interest in global politics, in part, to
    her family history: her grandparents fled the pogroms of
    Eastern Europe. “The whole mantra of ‘never again’—I took
    that to mean for any population, anywhere in the world.”
    Goodman’s father, an ophthalmologist, was also a community
    activist: he led a task force to desegregate the schools
    of Bay Shore, Long Island, where Goodman grew up. “There'd
    be a thousand screaming parents not happy with changing
    where their kids were going to school,” she remembers.
    “I saw how he judiciously navigated a path to a more just
    community. And in the end our schools were integrated.”
    Goodman’s younger brother, David Goodman ’82, also a
    journalist, has collaborated with her on projects like
    their 2004 book The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily
    Politicians, War Profiteers, & the Media that Love Them.

    At Harvard, Goodman was always protesting. She matriculated
    in 1975, during the height of anti-apartheid activism on
    campus, when students were pressuring the University to
    divest from companies that did business in South Africa.
    “My mother would call & say, ‘Where are you?’ And I'd say,
    ‘Oh, I‘m coming home from the library.’ And she'd say,
    ‘Well how come I see a picture of you shutting down the
    admin building?’” Goodman remembers. After a while,
    though, she realized activism was distracting from her
    education. Being at Harvard “seemed like a very expensive
    way to protest,” she jokes. She left the College in the
    middle of her anthropology studies for Maine, where she
    took classes at the College of the Atlantic, a school that
    offered degrees solely in human ecology. “Every course
    took a very synergistic approach to looking at human beings
    & their natural environment,” she recalls. While there, she
    co-founded a whole-grain bakery collective & restaurant.
    “I was deeply interested in food & politics,” she says.
    “My dream was that we'd provide whole-grain, macrobiotic
    bread to the schools of Bar Harbor, Maine.”

    The business, named Sunflour, became a victim of its own
    success. “We were baking 1000s of loaves of bread a week....
    We made thousands of pounds of granola & whole-wheat cookies
    & peanut-butter cookies,” delivering them to coastal stores,
    Goodman says. All this work made it difficult for Goodman
    to create the education center that she hoped would accompany
    the bakery (“The point of the restaurant, I felt, was maybe
    we'd make Salvadoran food one night & have discussions about
    Salvadoran politics”). After that 5-year hiatus, she returned
    to finish her degree at Harvard & delve into her thesis,
    which investigated the use of the contraceptive Depo-Provera,
    then unapproved in the US because of safety concerns but
    marketed & sold to women around the world.

    AFTER HARVARD, Goodman moved back to Long Island, where
    she turned her thesis into a series of stories in the Multi-
    national Monitor magazine founded by Ralph Nader. While
    there, she remembers turning on the radio & discovering WBAI,
    the local station that would eventually host Democracy Now!
    “I heard all the myriad accents, the beauty of New York,
    the politics of New York & the globe,” she says. “I didn’t
    grow up on this, but I was deeply moved by it.” Until then,
    she had worked in print journalism: she wrote for her high-
    school newspaper & helped found the feminist newspaper
    Seventh Sister at Harvard. But in audio, she now discovered,
    “You don’t have to say, like you would in print, ‘The woman
    choked back tears.’ You hear it in her voice. You hear the
    accent, you hear the pain, you hear the beauty of the way
    someone expresses themselves. That’s what I loved about

    Pursuing her interest in nutrition & public health, Goodman
    was taking a biochem course at Hunter College when she
    decided to sit in on a radio-documentary class taught by a
    WBAI producer. “I asked if he'd take me to the station,”
    she says, “& in a sense I never really left.” He invited her
    to be an apprentice on a new show called Investigations.
    “I'd just carry around a tape recorder” at news conferences
    & speeches & lectures, she remembers, “& sometimes we’d
    play it on the radio.” She soon joined WBAI’s staff, working
    on the evening news & later co-hosting the station’s morning
    show Wakeup Call.

    At WBAI, which was part of the progressive radio network
    Pacifica, Goodman reported from around the world. In 1995,
    she covered Haiti’s national elections: “People who were
    running for office could be gunned down,” she says. “People
    who went to the polls could be gunned down. It was in the
    middle of a coup, sadly, that was backed by the US.” She was
    in a safe house in Haiti when she got the call from Pacifica
    asking if she wanted to host Democracy Now!, a new show that
    would cover the 1996 election (between Bill Clinton, Bob
    Dole, & Ross Perot). “I thought, wow, most people don’t vote
    in the US,” Goodman says. “I didn’t think it was apathy.
    I was interested in why they weren’t voting.” If Americans
    understood the impact of U.S. policy around the world, she
    says, “I didn’t think they'd let this happen.”

    Democracy Now! debuted in Feb 1996 on 9 stations across
    the country and was only meant to air for 9 months. But
    “people were more interested in the show even after the
    election than before,” Goodman says. “On TV, so often you
    get the pundits who know so little about so much, explaining
    the world to us & getting it so wrong.”

    From the day she became host, her interviewing style has
    been unshrinking. On Election Day 2000, when Clinton
    unexpectedly called WBAI to share a get-out-the-vote message,
    Goodman & colleague Gonzalo Aburto kept him on for half an
    hour, with questions like “What do you say to people who
    feel that the two parties are bought by corporations & at
    this point feel that their vote doesn’t make a difference?”
    Clinton called her “hostile & combative.” Goodman reflected
    on that experience earlier this year, on Democracy Now’s
    25th anniversary special. “The White House would later
    call me & say they were thinking of banning me,” she said
    with an amused air. “And I said, ‘But he called me.
    I didn’t call him.’”

    Though the pandemic has confined her to New York, Goodman
    says, “It has never changed the global scope of the show.”
    But she knows that there’s no substitute for traveling to
    the story. Democracy Now!, which now employs about 40 staff
    members, has reported from Black Lives Matter protests in
    Ferguson, Missouri, the U.S.-Mexico border, & refugee camps
    during Europe’s 2015 migration crisis. In 1998, Goodman
    uncovered the role of Chevron in killing two Nigerian
    protesters; in 2008, she & her colleagues were arrested
    while covering an anti-war protest outside the Republican
    National Convention (the charges were quickly dropped).
    She faced arrest for a 2nd time in 2016, on a riot charge,
    after Democracy Now! reported from the Dakota Access
    protests & recorded a viral video of activists being
    attacked by dogs & pepper spray. That, too, was later
    dismissed, but only after she returned from North Dakota &
    broadcast from the courthouse where she planned to turn
    herself in & fight the charge. “I knew it was absolutely
    critical to challenge this,” she recalls, “because a message
    was being sent to all journalists: Don't go to North Dakota.”

    Her reporting is threatening to authority, Goodman
    believes, because seeing & hearing injustices inflicted on
    other people is transformative. It doesn’t merely create a
    record of the day’s news—it also allows people to speak to
    each other. “When you hear a Palestinian child or an
    Israeli grandmother, or an Afghan aunt or an uncle in Iraq,
    you say, ‘Oh my gosh, that sounds like my baby, my aunt,
    my brother, my uncle,’” she says. “And I’m not saying you’ll
    agree with them. But it makes it much less likely that
    you’ll want to destroy them. That’s why I think the media
    can be the greatest force for peace on Earth.”


    --- SoupGate-Win32 v1.05
    * Origin: fsxNet Usenet Gateway (21:1/5)