Amy Goodman has devoted her life to exposing the issues, stories and people ignored or overlooked in mainstream media. Despite the cynicism surrounding today’s news culture, she still believes that media can be the world’s greatest force for peace.
Ms. Goodman is the co-founder of Democracy Now!, the nation’s largest and fastest growing public media collaboration, which airs on more than 1,200 stations around the world.
“The media is the way that we learn about the world and the way the rest of the world learns about us,” she said in an interview with the Gazette. “So it should be through an independent lens.”
On Saturday, July 26, Ms. Goodman will give a talk at the Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven about the role of independent media in today’s world. Proceeds will benefit local radio station WVVY, which is funded by listeners and local business sponsors, and broadcasts Democracy Now! every weekday at noon.
An informal gathering and auction at the Beach Plum Inn in Chilmark earlier in the evening will benefit Democracy Now! which is funded by listeners, viewers and foundations.
Throughout her career, Ms. Goodman has been a fierce supporter of independent media. Her long list of awards includes the Gandhi Peace Award in 2012 and the Right Livelihood Award (often called the alternative Nobel Prize) in 2008.
“I deeply believe that media can be the greatest force for peace on earth, because it increases our way of communicating with each other,” she said. “Instead, all too often, it’s wielded as a weapon of war, and I think independent media is what can save us.”
She pointed out that the hundreds of television channels available today are owned by just a handful of corporations. While news stations seem to be competing with each other, she said, they are often informed by “the same small group of pundits who know so little about so much, explaining the world to us and getting it so wrong.”
“We need to open up the media to reflect the voices of people all over this country and around the world,” she added.
That mission has not been easy. For example, when the progressive leaning Pacifica Radio’s KPFT station in Houston went on the air in 1970, its transmitter was blown up by the Ku Klux Klan. That same year, after the transmitter was rebuilt, the Klan struck again, this time crippling the station for several months.
Ms. Goodman recalled that Jimmy Hutto, who was convicted of the bombings, had said it was the best thing he had ever done. She pointed to the incident as revealing of both the threat and the power of independent media.
“It allows people to speak for themselves,” she said. “And when you hear a Palestinian child, an Israeli grandmother, an uncle in Iraq or an aunt in Afghanistan tell their story, you might say it sounds like my family member... You don’t have to agree, but you begin to understand where they are coming from. That’s the power of the media. That’s the beginning of peace.”
Ms. Goodman’s talk on Saturday will include topics from her most recent book, The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance and Hope, a collection of syndicated columns that Ms. Goodman co-wrote with colleague Denis Moynihan. Copies will be available on Saturday and a book signing will follow Ms. Goodman’s talk.
The people around the world who are concerned about war and peace, climate change, government abuses of power and other critical issues, Ms. Goodman said, “are not a fringe minority, not even a silent majority, but the silenced majority; silenced by the corporate media, which is why we have to take the media back.”
She said the biggest challenge facing independent media today is the fight for an open, free internet. Although the internet was created with public resources, “corporations see it as an incredible gold mine, and it’s very important that it not be privatized,” she said.
The success of Democracy Now! hinges largely on its availability in many formats. Millions of people around the world access the show on their radios, televisions, computers and cell phones, and transcripts are available online. The 15-minute War and Peace Report that opens each broadcast is also translated into Spanish.
“We often get calls from the major networks for sources on stories, or guests we’ve had that they want to have,” Ms. Goodman said. “Our motto is, ‘Steal this story please.’”
Ms. Goodman will be introduced on Saturday by Charlayne Hunter-Gault, a former correspondent for National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service. Ms. Hunter-Gault’s memoir, In My Place, recalls her experiences as one of the first two African-Americans to attend the University of Georgia.
“I’m so honored that she is going to be doing that,” Ms. Goodman said. “She is an incredible role model and I have followed her work for decades, so I’m really excited about that, and really looking forward to seeing her there.”
Amy Goodman at the Katharine Cornell Theatre begins at 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 26. Tickets are $10. A pre-event reception begins at 5 p.m. at the Beach Plum Inn. Tickets are $75. Visit democracynow.org.