It's difficult for Amy Goodman to carve out time for an interview.
On Monday, Goodman and company pulled into Blacksburg, Va., site of a Democracy Now! broadcast. She was scheduled to tour the Virginia Tech University campus, where 32 people were killed in the 2007 massacre. After that, she was headed to Colorado, with a stop in Boulder and then Denver, to host an alternative to the presidential debate.
As she explains, "We are going to broadcast the debate, and expand it" — allowing the third-party candidates to respond to the same questions posed to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
Then on Thursday, Goodman comes to Colorado Springs for a 7 p.m. benefit for KRCC 91.5 FM, at the just-opened Tim Gill Center for Public Media. That's where she'll broadcast her Friday show.
It's part of a 100-city tour to promote her new book, The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance, and Hope, co-authored by Democracy Now! alum Denis Moynihan. But no matter how big it (or her syndicated column) gets, Goodman almost certainly will stay best-known for Democracy Now! itself.
The radio show, which began 16 years ago, is now carried by 1,100 stations worldwide. (An actual campaign to bring the show to KRCC prefaced its adoption in 2007.) The program has helped establish the careers of Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater, and Sharif Abdel Kouddous, whose reporting from Egypt during the revolution set the pace for American journalists. It's won numerous awards for its groundbreaking investigative reporting, affording ample air time and detailed research to subject matter that most mainstream media outlets either ignore or treat with cursory interest.
Much of the credit must rest with Goodman, 55, whose unrelenting drive has provided a unique and popular voice among independent media. Twenty-one years ago, she was beaten as she documented a slaughter in the island nation of East Timor. She was working on a documentary about a genocide that she says had gone completely ignored by the mainstream press. It was a foundational experience, fueling her mission to create not only independent journalism, but also the means to get it to the masses.
That mission remains intact, as obvious in the interview excerpts below.
Indy: Driving into work today, my wife heard on the radio that you were coming to town. She was excited but wondered if you knew what you were getting into. Considering this community's political makeup, it won't be very welcoming.
Amy Goodman: I'm not sure if that's the case, because, for example, last night we were in Norfolk, Virginia, home to a huge military base, and a number of soldiers and vets were at the talk, thanking us. Soldiers and vets know more than anything what war is like on the ground, and what has been happening. And just to raise this in a talk, whether you are for or against the war, just to hear the facts addressed, I think breaks down barriers.
We get this everywhere we go. We're talking about independent media in a time of war and elections.
Indy: Tell me about your book.
AG: It's a book of columns written over the last three years that appeared in newspapers around the country.
The reason we call it The Silenced Majority is along the lines of what I have been saying, that those who are concerned about war, that are concerned about the growing inequality in this country, concerned with climate change — those terrible fires in Colorado, drenching rains in Florida — people who are concerned with the fate of the planet are not a fringe minority. They are not even a silent majority. They are the silenced majority; silenced by the corporate media, and that's why we have to take the media back.
Indy: "Hope" is an interesting word to choose for your title. Listening to Democracy Now! every day can get a little depressing, because the news is so overwhelming. What do you find that drives your hope?
AG: As we travel the country, although we deal with very difficult issues, the word commonly said to us about the broadcast is that it gives people hope. I am always amazed at that, because the issues are always so tough. But I think that the reason people feel encouraged, rather than discouraged, is that we don't turn to the pundits that the rest of the networks turn to on television. You know, the small circle of pundits who know so little about so much, explaining the world to us and getting it so wrong.
We go to the people on the ground, who are the analysts in their own communities, who are taking on these local issues that have global significance.
I think that people are hungry for independent voices, and authentic voices. We have a huge younger audience, but we also have a diverse audience of people across the political spectrum. You know, categories like liberal and conservative, I do think, are breaking down. Those labels don't really apply.
Indy: You see that in the Occupy Wall Street movement, and to some degree, we saw that in the early days of the tea party movement. What is replacing these categories?
AG: So often this issue of partisan gridlock in Washington is raised, that they can't get anything done. I don't think that the problem is partisan gridlock; I think that it's bipartisan consensus.
On the big issues — like war, torture, immigration — the Democrats and the Republicans are not that far apart in Washington. Remember the insanity of Clint Eastwood taking the stage at the Republican convention? He starts off with the whole empty-chair thing, that that's where President Obama is sitting — and the racism implicit in that, the idea of the "Invisible Man," the Ralph Ellison novel — and then he goes on to say, critics say about Obama that he promised that he would close Guantanamo and he didn't. That's true. It's a fair criticism; I was just surprised to hear it from the stage of the Republican convention, because both sides agree on it.
And then he went on to talk about Obama presiding over the longest war in American history. That's true.
The Republicans and the Democrats have converged on these points, and I think people outside of that circle in Washington have very different views.
Indy: Do you see signs that independent media are breaking the corporate-media stranglehold?
AG: What we are trying to do is connect the dots of independent media across the country and around the world. I do have great hope; even public-access TV stations, these are rich community resources where people can make their own media.
Part of our mission at Democracy Now! is to dig, to investigate, to provide a forum for people to speak for themselves, to provide a forum for people to discuss and debate the critical issues of the day. And part of our mission is to shore up independent media. On this hundred-city tour, we are doing scores of fundraisers for [National Public Radio] stations, for low-power FM stations, for college stations, for PBS stations, and it builds audience.
At the same time, as you point out, you have a multiplicity of stations but a concentration of ownership; you also have independent media springing up all over, and we are trying to link with it all.