Amy Goodman, who’s coming to the Mateel Community Center April 16, got on the line and got right to the point.
In covering climate change, the popular host of the syndicated radio news program “Democracy Now!” said during a telephone interview last week, it’s important to have an independent media that’s “not supported by the oil, gas and coal companies.” In covering health care, it’s important to have an independent media that’s “not owned by the insurance companies.” And during a presidential election year, it’s important to have an independent media “that doesn’t white-out certain voices.”
That the mainstream media does white-out certain voices, Goodman continued, was on naked display the night of March 15 as the results from presidential primaries in five states were coming in. While the various candidates gave concession and victory speeches — Sen. Marco Rubio, notably, announced his withdrawal from the Republican race after it became clear that he had failed to win his home state of Florida — the mainstream media’s obsession with you-know-who became glaringly obvious.
“The networks were waiting for Donald Trump to give a news conference from his mansion in Florida,” Goodman related. Rather than covering one of the other candidates, “they kept showing an empty podium.”
Where was the senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, at that time? Goodman asked rhetorically. “He was speaking before hundreds of people.” The networks, she explained, “just decided not to [cover] his speech.”
“The next day on ‘Democracy Now!’ we played an excerpt of his speech. It’s not a revolutionary act,” to play an excerpt of a speech, Goodman allowed. But evidently it felt like it. “None of the [other media] played it,” she explained.
“That shows how extreme the situation is. It’s not just Fox [News]. They’re all sounding like Trump TV. When he speaks, they play it.”
Goodman, who turns 59 on Wednesday, is stopping in at the Mateel as part of a five-week cross-country book tour. She’ll be available to interact with one-on-one during a meet-and-greet that’s scheduled for 5:30 p.m. — the cost of admission is $250 per person. The proceeds from that affair will go toward KMUD Radio’s Emergency Response Fund.
Afterwards, beginning at 6:30 p.m., Goodman will deliver a lecture. To snag a seat for that — and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis — the tab is $50. Folks who don’t mind standing can get in for $35.
KMUD General Manager Jeanette Todd, who was instrumental in ensuring that Goodman would include Redway on her book tour, said that her speaking fee is not cheap. “It’s quite expensive,” she said. When pressed to be more specific, Todd said that the amount is in excess of $10,000.
“While Amy Goodman is grassroots media she’s also a big star and highly sought after. The money we give her goes to ‘Democracy Now!’ specifically,” Todd explained.
That’s key because Goodman’s show, to hear Todd tell it, is more valuable than ever to a grassroots community supported radio station like KMUD. The reason is that two other nationally syndicated independent media sources that had been part of the station’s format, Al Jazeera News and Free Speech Radio News, are no longer in the picture. “They were discontinued. They lost funding,” Todd explained.
“If ‘Democracy Now!’ went away, there would be nothing [in terms of an alternative media viewpoint]. So we’re motivated to show support for independent media.”
“Amy Goodman fits the mission of KMUD,” chimed in Simon Frech, the station’s technical director. “She brings perspectives and news stories you won’t find in the mainstream corporate media.”
Frech expressed confidence that despite Goodman’s hefty fee, “we’ll make something” off the event.
As for the book, her fifth, Goodman wrote it with her brother, David Goodman, also a journalist, and her longtime assistant Denis Moynihan. Titled “‘Democracy Now!’: Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America,” the book looks back “over the past two decades of ‘Democracy Now!’ and the powerful movements and charismatic leaders who are reshaping our world,” as a press release described it.
“Goodman takes the reader along as she goes to where the silence is, bringing out voices from the streets of Ferguson to Staten Island, Wall Street, South Carolina to East Timor — and other places where people are rising up to demand justice,” the release added.
In the interview, Goodman recalled that when she began hosting “Democracy Now!” on Pacifica Radio in 1996, the thinking was that the show wouldn’t last much beyond the presidential election of that year. Instead, she said, “there was more demand [for the show] after the election than there was before.”
Today, she noted proudly, “Democracy Now!” is the largest pubic media collaboration in the U.S., broadcasting on over 1,400 television and radio stations around the world. It can also be accessed online at DemocracyNow.org.
The program’s success is “a testament to the hunger for independent coverage. “Democracy Now!” has defied all expectations. It’s now as big as any of the corporate network shows,” she added.
As for Trump, when asked why the mainstream press has been so obsessed with him, Goodman initially said: “I have no idea.”
She then speculated that it might have something to do with a celebrity mindset or with a preoccupation with ratings.
Whatever the reason, the bias “underestimates the American people, who care about the critical issues we face today.”
“People care about war and peace. They care about climate change and the state of the planet. They care about the growing inequality between the rich and the poor. But they are the silenced majority. They’ve been silenced by the corporate media,” she went on, in a reference to her 2012 book “The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance and Hope.”
Speaking of uprisings, Goodman said that the power of the people in this country is alive and well. The Black Lives Matter protest movement, for example, with “its challenge to police brutality, has changed the presidential election.”
Immigrant rights is another hot-button issue, she added, thanks to “undocumented students sitting [outside] the offices of politicians and demanding change in immigration policies.”
Finally, she pointed to the backlash to anti-gay laws that has recently erupted in Deep South states such as North Carolina and Mississippi.
Whether this resurgence of people power helps explain the surprisingly strong showing of Sen. Sanders in his battle against Hillary Clinton, Goodman didn’t say. But she did remark that Sanders “has broken so many different records.”
Like in the area of fundraising, where Goodman said Sanders raised $44 million in March to Clinton’s $29 million without relying on big donors. A lot of the donations were “in the $3 to $5 range with $27 being average,” Goodman said.
Does Sanders have a chance? “With the excitement he’s generated, yes, he certainly has a chance,” Goodman responded.
But then, displaying an awareness of her role as a reporter, she added: “As do other candidates.”