News  The Daily interviews Amy Goodman

Award-winning journalist Amy Goodman, host of the daily grassroots radio/TV news hour Democracy Now!, will speak at McGill Friday, three days after the U.S. election. Airing on more than 500 radio and TV stations across North America, Democracy Now! is an award-winning independent news program. The Daily caught up with Goodman to talk about independent media, covering war, and getting arrested.

McGill Daily: What was is like as an independent journalist covering the election?

Amy Goodman: It was just key to break the sound barrier, to expand the debate. It’s not just about the debate between the parties – which is so often not a debate at all – it’s about getting in the voices of people at every level. And you know, it was tough, because, for example, at the Republican Convention we were arrested for doing it, for getting on the streets. You know, democracy is a messy thing. And the only legitimate message was not just the one from the convention floor, it was from outside too, [with] the people who protested. In trying to document what they were saying, we were arrested. That’s not acceptable because journalism is essential to the functioning of a democratic society. We’re supposed to be the eyes and the ears, and when they beat us, when they arrest us, those eyes and ears are closed.

It’s the job of independent media to expand the debate, before and after the election. Because now the critical decisions have to be made, and it can’t just be a certain select group that have the ears of those in power. And where do these discussions and debates and solutions that get hammered out; where do they happen? In the media. The media are the most powerful institutions on earth and we have to keep them open and free.

MD: What are the biggest challenges independent journalists face?

AG: Challenging the corporate media to open up. Because for so many people that’s where they come to understand the world and it has to be through something other than a corporate lens or a corporate microphone. And building our own media to provide a forum for people to speak for themselves. These problems are massive, and they are global, but it’s the local voices everywhere that can solve them.

MD: What do you see as the role, or importance, of independent media in the face of the consolidation of the corporate media?

AG: The issue of media concentration is absolutely critical. There are hundreds of channels, but what matters is who the owners are. They’re the ones putting in their point of view. Media consolidation is a threat to a democratic society. The media has to be decentralized, because debate and discussion are the oxygen of a democracy. The media should be a sanctuary of dissent. That’s what’s gonna save the country – in fact, the planet.

MD: How can independent media effectively cover wars, like Iraq, where the media’s movement and access is severely restricted?

AG: It’s critical to get out the voices of people on the ground and people who are affected by it everywhere. Simply covering Iraq and Afghanistan and making it a top story, that’s what’s critical: making it prominent. Putting it on the front page, above the fold, keeping it in our consciousness. In fact, in the last five, almost six years of war, there has been less and less coverage. And that makes people feel that maybe it’s not so bad. We’ve got to be there, all the time, insuring that these stories are told, that people can hear, feel, smell the war. And it’s especially important now, as a new administration comes in, that the movements against war not be demobilized, but galvanized.

MD: Would you relate your arrest and the arrest of other independent media in St. Paul to the Bush Administration’s suppression of first and fourth Amendment rights and the deployment of active troops to American soil with a mandate to supress “civil disturbances,” among other things?

AG: There were more than 40 journalists arrested at the Republican Convention. The message was put out – and this has a chilling effect on all journalists – that if you go inside the convention you’ll be fine and if you go out on the streets you’ll be arrested. But it’s not only about journalists’ rights, or the right to a free press, it’s about the public’s right to know. And that also was violated.

The event is at 7 p.m., doors opening at 6:30 p.m., in Leacock Room 132, 855 Sherbrooke O.

This event is part of AMARC 25th Anniversary activities and is co-presented with Culture Shock, QPIRG McGill, SSMU, The Link, and The Daily.

– Compiled by Charles Mostoller