The good fight
Independent journalist blasts the administration, the media, and the corporations that own them
Broadcast journalist Amy Goodman blitzed through Chico late last week, addressing hundreds of fans at the Senator Theater as part celebrity, part agent for media reform and part inspirational speaker for social change.
Goodman, host of Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! news show that airs weekday mornings on community-owned KZFR, proved she could be eloquent, funny, warm and hopeful despite the serious nature of her program that often scoops the mainstream press with investigative reporting, covers opposition to the Iraq war not covered by television, and provides a forum for debate on issues like global warming not often found elsewhere in the media.
The event was KZFR’s largest-ever non-pledge-drive fund-raiser, with Goodman helping to raise about $10,000 for the station, said KZFR General Manager Jill Paydon. “It’s part of what this station is about. … We bring news and music to the community but also want to bring events of educational value.”
Paydon says the station sold almost 45 $100 tickets to a pre-lecture reception and sold out on the $15 tickets for 700 lecture seats.
Goodman was making her 75th stop Friday on an ambitious 100-city tour to promote the book she co-authored with her brother, journalist David Goodman, The Exception to the Rulers. Undaunted by the book’s somewhat shrill subtitle—Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers, and the Media That Love Them—readers have purchased enough copies for the book to win the 17th slot on the New York Times’ bestseller list.
The 318-page book includes many of Goodman’s best stories–like her reporting from East Timor in 1991 that won her one of several journalism awards and almost cost her life. The book’s success, even though it has received no major media coverage, is a “testament to the hunger and outrage” in the country, she says.
The 8-year-old Democracy Now! program began airing daily on KZFR more than a year ago at a time when many of us were finding ourselves angry and frustrated by corporate-owned news outlets that abandoned the watchdog role envisioned for them by this country’s founders and instead placed their faith in Bush administration officials who were manipulating the public into believing war was necessary.
Goodman noted that, as ownership has become concentrated in fewer hands in the past few years, corporate-owned outlets have increasingly acted as a “conveyor belt for [administration] lies.”
She points to the lack of coverage of the peace movement as an example of media bias, even while networks host an unending “parade of retired generals” paid as television consultants by corporations that profit from weapons and war.
During the first year of the war in Iraq, Goodman watched as television networks assumed the Pentagon propaganda slogan “Operation Iraqi Freedom” as a title for their news shows and aired stories from embedded reporters, providing a generally “sanitized” version of the war. She says she wondered, “If this were a state-run medium, how would [the coverage] be any different?”
When she mentioned during her Friday night lecture the historic nature of protests during the recent Republican convention—she estimates that a half-million people were involved in what was the largest protest ever at a party’s national convention—an audience member shouted out that it was only because of Democracy Now! that we knew such protests were occurring.
Goodman says the protests were important, not only because of what they said about outrage over Bush administration policies, but also because they were a “message” to Democratic candidate John Kerry as well. “Where is the opposition candidate opposing this war?” asks Goodman.
The Nov. 2 presidential election is “the most important election in the country’s history,” Goodman said, advising audience members to “make your demands now” of candidate Kerry. “What we’re seeing today is a silenced majority, silenced by the corporate media,” she said, arguing that the Kerry campaign has miscalculated what the majority of Americans want.
During a book-signing at the reception, Goodman told the News & Review that her program’s audience is growing “by leaps and bounds.”
“We’re picking up two to three stations a week, and now have over 240 [television and radio] stations carrying the show. We reach millions,” she said.
KZFR says several financial contributors like Women’s Health Specialists helped sponsor the event.
“Goodman’s program is a stellar example of independent journalism," says Paydon. "She is asking the questions a journalist should ask, the questions that aren’t getting asked in the mainstream media, the questions news consumers want answered."