On The Frontlines

Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!, dares to air dissenting views

| March/April 2002

Amy Goodman is no stranger to conflict. The journalist and radio host survived a massacre in East Timor in which Indonesian soldiers gunned down more than 250 Timorese. She won prestigious journalism awards for her exposé of Chevron and its complicity in killings in Nigeria’s oil fields. And she’s reported from Israel and the Occupied Territories, Cuba, Mexico, and Haiti. More recently she’s been at ground zero in New York City.

Ironically, it was a work-related battle that sent her there, before September 11. Goodman, a 44-year-old Long Island native, is the host of Democracy Now! Featuring the voices of activists, muckrakers, risk-takers, and "just folks," the program provides grassroots coverage of political and cultural affairs. One of the country’s most important forums for progressive political views, it has been the most popular program on the independent Pacifica Radio network for years. Pacifica owns five stations around the country, including WBAI in New York, from which Goodman’s five-days-a-week program originated until last summer. Over the last few years, Pacifica has been engaged in fierce internal struggles, which, among other things, resulted in Goodman being suspended without pay in August, when she and the rest of the Democracy Now! staff went into exile, moving to a firehouse garret only a few blocks from the World Trade Center. But they continued to broadcast to community radio stations across the country with the help of another Pacifica station, Berkeley’s KPFA.

Then came 9/11. Democracy Now! was already on the scene. At a time when there were few dissenting voices in the mainstream media, the demand for its alternative coverage grew. A televised version quickly became available on public access stations, Deep Dish TV, Free Speech TV, and the Internet. In December, a legal settlement began to pave the way for Democracy Now! to return to WBAI.

Goodman talked recently with senior editor Karen Olson from her firehouse studio.

Where do you get your daily news?
All over the world. From people on the ground in different places. From newspapers, magazines, the Internet, and going to places myself. I read lots of different things—everything I can get my hands on. I bring in a pack of newspapers each day.

What book is on your reading table?
Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden. It’s a book about the American invasion of Somalia in 1993. Hollywood and the Pentagon rushed to release a blockbuster movie of it months in advance. It will lay the groundwork for the bombing of Somalia. The book is very important because so much of pop culture shapes and informs people about the world. Black Hawk Down will become the official version of history.

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