Thursday, March 03, 2005

Highlighting Amy Goodman for Women's History Month

We're living history right now. And one of the few people trying to report it accurately is Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! and author of the book (with her brother, David Goodman) The Exception to the Rulers.

Goodman just got a Springsteen. By that I'm referring to the time when Bruce Springsteen made the covers of Newsweek and Time the same week in the seventies. A trip to the magazine rack will find Amy Goodman gracing the covers of both Yes! and Clamor.

We could run down Goodman's history (including East Timor) and maybe note her place of birth or some other factoids. But the reason people respond to Amy Goodman is that she's someone trying to do her job and trying to do it well at a time when so many other reporters are perfectly happy to work from a list of talking points (or possibly two opposing lists of talking points -- "balance," if not truth).

So let's note her spirit -- a desire to speak truth to power, a recognition that just because official sources say something doesn't mean you swallow it or run with it.

This hasn't been a great period for the media, but Amy Goodman is among the people who (my opinion) history will remember. Andrea Mitchell may be a footnote as "the wife of Alan Greenspan." Those cut-ups at Fox "News" may end up a paragraph or two in a history of journalism (maybe even a chapter: "Kids, here's what not to do!"). Cokie Roberts may get a shrine at mulitple Wal-Marts dotting the land (and possibly a mention of her brother's strong lobbying efforts for Wal-Mart) but no one's going to take her breathless (and brainless) reporting seriously. A lot of people are building up huge bank accounts, but they aren't providing any news content. Famous hacks get attention, no question about it, in their time period. But history doesn't applaud them or note their accomplishments.

Izzy Stone isn't still known because he pushed the "official line."

These days aren't high-level marks for journalism between infotainment and timid reporters
who cower at the thought of questioning administration spin. In Amy Goodman's work, we find the true spirit of journalism.

As she and others (Dahr Jamail, Christian Parenti, etc.) garner well deserved attention, there's hope that others may catch the spirit or be forced to pretend to.

If you wanted to see something other than pagentry from the day the Bully Boy was sworn in last January, you watched Democracy Now! If you wanted to hear from unembedded reporters (like Robert Fisk), you listened to Democracy Now! A debate on social security that went beyond spin? Democracy Now!

Goodman (and her co-host Juan Gonzalez) have fought to preserve standards in broadcast journalism at a time when many others felt integrity, information and perspective were outmoded concepts to be sold (quickly) in a tag sale.

At a time when we've seen a number of powerful voices lost (and sadly watched as Bill Moyers stepped down from NOW with Bill Moyers), we need voices pursuing truth. And Goodman doesn't fluff.

In selecting her as "Best Progressive Radio Host," Clamor noted:

This unflagging journalist and independent media activist, may be the predictable winner for this category, and will likely earn similar titles for years to come. But Amy Goodman's recognition is well deserved, for her dedication to social justice issues, for continuing to ask tough questions, and for exposing some of the most important, under-reported stories of the last two decades.

In the preface to her interview with Goodman in Yes!, Carolyn McConnell notes:

President Bush's plans to partially privatize Social Security have blanketed the media in recent months. A top headline on NPR's Morning Edition, for example, on December 16, was "Bush's plan to reform Social Security." The show aired a clip of Bush claiming that Social Security is in crisis and that our record budget deficits are caused by shortfalls in the program. Cut to next story -- we heard no follow-up, no checking on whether there's any truth to the claim (in fact, the reverse is true -- the Social Security trust fund is subsidizing the rest of the federal budget). It's as if there are no facts beyond what the president says. You'd never know by listening to Morning Edition's segment that there is a controversy over whether Social Security is really in crisis.
Contrast that with the December 15 radio and television broadcast of the independent news program Democracy Now! After listening to guests debating the merits of privatizing Social Security, the host, Amy Goodman, asks a question that shows she's done her homework:
"... Every leading Republican proposal acknowledges that private accounts by themselves do little to solve the system's projected shortfall ... Instead, these proposals rely on deep cuts in benefits to future retirees. ... The controller general of the Government Accountability Office ... said that the creation of private accounts for Social Security will not deal with the solvency and sustainability of the Social Security fund. Your response to that?"
It's a straightforward question, but it's the kind that sets Goodman's work apart day after day. It assumes there's a world of facts that listeners have a right to know and that her guests need to respond to. Spotlighting competitive spins on a controversial issue does not constitute good journalism. Facts coupled with a wide range of perspectives on those facts does. This simple journalistic premise underlies all of Goodman's work and has made her both the darling of the alternative media world and a recipient of mainstream journalism's highest honors, including the Robert F. Kennedy Prize for International Reporting, the George Polk Award, and the Alfred duPont-Columbia Journalism Award.

History is being made and Goodman is covering it. We highlight her for Women's History Month because she's not fluffing, she's not spinning, and she's a journalist who makes a difference. There are some who still care about conveying the news and informing the public. (And we highlight those people as voices who speak to us regularly.) Let's hope Goodman's spirit is
contagious and manages to infect the mainstream but with or without them, Amy Goodman's bringing us the news in a voice that speaks to us.