Amy Goodman’s ‘Other’ America

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In a wide-ranging conversation, Amy Goodman, host and executive producer of Democracy Now! tells Moyers & Company‘s Michael Winship why she believes independent media is essential to a functioning democracy. Recorded at the National Conference on Media Reform in Denver, Goodman reflects on the modest beginnings of her program — now broadcast worldwide — and the role it plays in today’s media universe. “What we’re doing is bringing out the voice not of a fringe minority or a silent majority, but the silenced majority, silenced by the corporate media — which is why we have to take it back,” she says.


On journalism in the run-up to the Iraq War

“When I watched the rest of the media, rarely did they bring out the voice of an Iraqi. And yet, it was their country that was ground zero. There’s no more serious decision a country can make than whether or not to go to war. And so people need to have all the information possible and not be unquestioning, especially when it comes to power. Our job is to hold those in power accountable, just follow the basic tenets of good journalism. Independent media is essential to the functioning of a democratic society.”

On the importance of an open Internet

Amy Goodman reporting in Haiti

Amy Goodman reporting in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. (Courtesy Democracy Now!)

“[I]t’s part of our mission at Democracy Now to bring out the voices of people at the grassroots all over. We do not denigrate activists, as the media does. I mean what could be more noble than dedicating your life to making the world a better place? But also putting those who are so often at the target end of policy in dialogue and debate with those who make the policy and really hash out the issues. You know, the media [and the Internet] can be a great democratizing force, and that’s why we have to keep the Internet open and free and not let the cable and the telecom companies write the legislation that would privatize this invaluable global resource.”

On Democracy Now!’s rise to popularity

“After the first broadcast we did on the first TV show, public access stations all over the country started to ask, ‘Can you broadcast on our station?’ And we would FedEx out the VHS, the videocassette of the show, because I didn’t want it to go snail mail. At least they would get the breaking news the next day. And then the FedEx guys would come and they would haul these huge garbage bags full, very soon, of videocassettes that we would send out all over. And then the radio station in town that saw the public access show would say, ‘Can we run the radio show?’ And then the NPR station would ask, and now the PBS station. At this point we’re broadcasting on more than 1100 public radio and television stations around the country and around the world, in South Africa, in Sweden, on television and radio throughout Europe. In Japan they run us weekly, and they call it The Other America, and they have the premiere Japanese journalists discussing it afterwards.”

On America’s response to 9/11

“What was being projected, we thought, through the rest of the media was not what we were seeing in New York, or hearing — people gathering in parks, thousands of them carrying candles, comforting each other. It was not a blood-curdling yell for revenge… Hearing those voices is absolutely critical at such a painful time as that, and I think that’s the role of the media. I think the media can be the greatest force for peace on earth. Instead it is wielded as a weapon of war, and that has to change.”

On drawing inspiration from her reporting

“I am inspired by so many people that I cover. I mean, here we are at the National Conference on Media Reform, and we see at the author table that in a few hours a woman named Carlotta Walls LaNier is going to be signing her book. She is the youngest member of the Little Rock Nine. The nine children, young teenagers — she was 14 years old in 1957 — who integrated Central High School in Little Rock, with a mob of a thousand screaming people outside. She had the courage. And we interviewed her. We said, before she started signing books, would she be willing to talk about what she did so many decades ago? It is so inspiring to be in the presence of that kind of heroism, that kind of bravery.”

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