KCSB hosted a lecture and book signing by Amy Goodman, host of the daily nonprofit news program Democracy Now! The April 10 lecture was part of a 100-city tour by Goodman for her newest book, Democracy Now: Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America, written with David Goodman and Denis Moynihan. In her lecture, Goodman shared multiple anecdotes illustrating both her decades of media experience and the importance of independent press in a democratic society.
Goodman criticized the mainstream media for failing their obligation to the public. She accused media corporations of being motivated primarily by economic interests rather than any sincere desire to uncover truth. She spoke of the lead-up to the Iraq War, in which a media, partially funded by weapons manufacturers, “beat the drum for war” rather than making a serious attempt to examine the Bush administration’s claims.
In contrast, she described Democracy Now! as “not from military contractors,” “not from big insurance and Big Pharma,” but “from listeners all over the world committed to independent.”
Goodman made it clear that she felt an obligation to highlight injustices that are often glossed over by the mainstream media. She talked about Democracy Now!’s coverage of Troy Davis, a black man who was sentenced to death row despite the numerous inconsistencies in the testimony against him.
Democracy Now! broadcasted six hours of continuous coverage from the prison grounds in Jackson, Georgia, where the execution was taking place, while the event only received passing coverage from most media outlets. This effort was part of what Goodman described as a journalistic duty to “go where the silence is.”
Though she often covers events that would cause some to lose faith in man’s nature, Goodman expressed a profound hopefulness about what media could accomplish.
She spoke of Emmitt Till, a fourteen-year-old black boy who was murdered in Mississippi in 1955 after he was accused of whistling at a white woman. Till’s mother decided to have an open-casket funeral for her son, displaying the true horrors of racism for all to see. The images of his brutalized corpse were publicized nationwide and became a catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement.
Goodman said that this showed that the American people are fundamentally compassionate. Once the media exposes injustice, there is a fervent desire for positive change.
I managed to ask Goodman what advice she would give to college students. Her response was simple: “Get involved.”
This relates to a story she had told earlier in the night, a story about A. Phillip Randolph and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Randolph, a prominent rights leader, met with President Roosevelt and detailed the solutions he wanted to see in order to combat the problems of poverty and discrimination. Roosevelt listened, and finally said, “I agree with you, now go out and make me do it.”
College students cannot sit idly by hoping for the Roosevelts of today to fix the problems that plague the nation. As Goodman would say, real change comes from the movements below, movements that she has dedicated most of her life to covering, movements that in her eyes make “the best of America.”