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Q&A with Amy Goodman

Host and executive producer of Democracy Now!

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On the daily radio and television program Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman and co-host Juan Gonzalez offer an alternative to war and election coverage from the mainstream media. Instead of relying on pundits, the pair seek out ordinary people who are affected by U.S. foreign policy.

Democracy Now! is carried by more than 750 public-access radio and television stations across the country — though not in Memphis — and the show also airs on Dish Network's Free Speech TV and Direct TV's Link TV.

As this year's keynote speaker at the Gandhi-King Conference on Peacemaking at Christian Brothers University, Goodman will speak about the importance of independent news coverage as well as her recent arrest at the Republican National Convention. The conference runs October 17th and 18th and also features lectures by social activist Ruby Nell Sales and HipHop Caucus president Lennox Yearwood.

by Bianca Phillips

Flyer: How does independent news coverage differ from mainstream coverage?

Goodman: You look at the networks, and they bring you the same small circle of pundits who know so little about so much. We bring you the people at the heart of the story, like talking to a mom who lost her son in Iraq.

We also give people space to truly debate and discuss the issues of the day, not in nine-second soundbites. We want people to hammer at these issues, whether we're talking about this global economic meltdown or whether we're talking about war.

How important is independent media coverage during an election year?

Absolutely critical. Democracy is not just about two major parties. It's about the people all over this country and what they have to say and what they think. In a true democracy, the candidates have to respond to the public. It is up to the media to give them voice.

There's such a hunger for independent media right now. I really see the [independent] media as a sanctuary of dissent. And that's what is going to save us.

How'd you get arrested at the Republican National Convention?

I was interviewing delegates from Alaska on the convention floor. Two of our producers were out covering the protests on the streets. The police moved in on them very fast and arrested them all. Another producer called me and said [our producers] had been arrested.

I raced off the floor to the parking lot. There was a row of riot police, and I went up to them and said I needed our two credentialed producers to be released. I had my credentials hanging around my neck. But they twisted my arms back and handcuffed me and pushed me down on the ground.

What were the producers doing at the time of their arrest?

After they arrested me, I found [producer] Nicole Salazar handcuffed with her credentials around her neck. She was filming the protest, and they came at her and pushed her face down with a boot to the back and pulled the battery out of her camera.

[Producer] Sharif Abdel Kouddous was telling the police to calm down, and they moved in on him too and threw him up against the wall. They were facing felony riot charges. I was charged with misdemeanor interference with a peace officer.

What's the status of the charges now?

About two weeks ago, the charges were dropped. But that's after tremendous outcry. They received over 100,000 emails from outraged people all over the country.

It has a chilling effect on our ability to report. [Conventions] are supposed to be celebrations of democracy, and it's our job to bridge the different worlds, to go from the corporate suites to the convention floor to the streets. They violated our ability to do that. They violated freedom of the press and the public's right to know. More than 40 reporters were arrested that week.

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