Thursday, November 24, 2005

Ruth's Thanksgiving Report

Ruth: The report I was working on Saturday felt like handing sparklers out in May. So I decided to hold it, the Thanksgiving report, for Thursday.

As I wrote of
Counterspin and assorted other programs, I realized how fortunate I was and how much life can change in a single year.

Personally, a year ago I was still grieving the loss of my husband. Our country was at war twice over; John Kerry had lost, or "lost," the election; Bully Boy was bragging "mandate" in a way that reminded me of Zelda's desperate pursuit of Dobie on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis; and the best that I could do for news coverage was NPR.

As a long time listener of NPR, that was depressing since the reports have gotten shorter; the happy chatter has increased along with the corporate underwriting; a news organization had grown into standardized programming; and conventional "wisdom" ruled the day. "None that mattered," Cokie Roberts could infamously say in answer to a question regarding whether voices were raised opposed war and no chins dropped. That was not the NPR of the seventies.
But that is the NPR of today where the rare bits of brave reporting are swept from memory with upbeat bumper music and silly nonsense such as when a report on women's wages was followed, on NPR, with Steve Inskeep's "jazzy" segue noting that Renee Montaigne was paid well.

For the most part, everyone sounded as though they were paid well and overstuffed on NPR's magazine shows that go out of their way to find the silly story about some wacky adventure involving a fisherman but never can address the issues of what is going on in our country. Who would have thought, in the seventies, that NPR would one day be in dire need of a "hard news" news program?

Back then, I had no knowledge of
Pacifica Radio. Of the choices I was aware of, NPR was what I settled for. The difference a year can bring.

As a country, we were supposedly behind the Bully Boy and any questions of the reasons that led us to invade Iraq were supposedly swept aside by Bully Boy's "landslide," which was not a landslide, but where we could we hear that in the mainstream media? The first sign of hope, for me, following the election was when House Democrats could find a Senator to sign an objection to the Ohio vote. They found only one, Senator Barbara Boxer, but that was one more than in January 2001 and one was all that was needed to raise the issue. In August of 2005, we would again see the importance one person can make when Cindy Sheehan decided to set up Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas.

Between the two events, we had the Representative John Conyers' hearing on the Downing Street Memo. By that time, I had discovered
Pacifica Radio which is why I was able to listen to the hearing with my granddaughter Tracey and her friends. NPR did not broadcast the hearing live. Whether that resulted from not wanting to alter their magazine format of programming or because they just did not deem it newsworthy is a guess; however, based upon their rare coverage of the Downing Street Memo, one could reasonably assume that they did not find it newsworthy. I am sure some local fisherman somewhere had a humorous tale to tell that could result in chuckles for Steve and Renee.

In the e-mails C.I. passes on to me, I read of members' favorite
Pacifica programs. Members explain how they first heard of something on a program or of how the host inspires them. Occasionally, an e-mail will arrive from someone who has just listened to Counterspin for the first time (Melinda) or Sojourner Truth (Brady and Keesha) or Law & Disorder (Ben, Joan and Tori) and I will share their enthusiasm because the programs inspire and inform me as well. Usually the e-mail is to note something "only on Pacifica" such as the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts which was anchored by Deepa Fernandes (WBAI's Wake Up Call), Mitch Jesserich (Free Speech Radio News) and Larry Bensky (national affairs correspondent for Pacifica). Another news event that received many e-mails of praise was when Democracy Now! hosts Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez joined Margaret Prescod, host of KPFK's Sojourner Truth, to interview Hugo Chavez.

Members have shared their favorite programs and encouraged me to check them out which has allowed me to discover a wide range of voices. Pacifica is public radio without corporate sponsorship and without a need to fit every program into what Kendrick has called "NPR's cookie-cutter voices in cookie-cutter shows."

So this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for an awakening that is happening in the country and I am thankful also for independent media in all its shapes and forms. As someone who honestly thought NPR was "the only game in town," I am thankful that 2005 was the year I discovered Pacifia Radio.

Below is a partial list of programs that members have cited for their power to speak to them:

Democracy Now!
Connect the Dots with Lila Garrett
First Voices
Pocho Hour of Power
Earth 101
KPFA Evening News
Law & Disorder
Dead To The World
Christmas Coup Comedy Players(CCCP)
Queer Voices
Feminist Journal
Guns & Butter
Sunday Salon with Larry Bensky
The Morning Show
Sojourner Truth
Al Lewis Live
Wakeup Call
Joy of Resistance
Prison Show
Alternative Radio with David Barsamian
Free Speech Radio News

As we give thanks for those programs and many others, I hope we realize the importance of supporting independent media. "Support" means pledging during pledge drives if you are fortunate enough to be able to. But you can support independent media also by listening and, most importantly, by sharing it with the people you know. So, as Maria often urges, get the word out. Let's make that a goal for 2006.