Earlier this evening, Amy Goodman spoke at Ithaca. While I have visited Democracy Now! a few times, I would not consider myself an avid follower of the site. Both Professor Jeff Cohen and Amy talked about both her accomplishments and Goodman’s perspective on the importance of independent media sites, like Democracy Now! and the vital form of journalism they provide.
I thought that Goodman’s speech was very informative, and definitely gave me a perspective of journalism that many people don’t recognize. Goodman said that today, more and more people have a “hunger for independent voices”and that these increasingly more noticed independent voices are threats to mainstream media’s dissemination of the news. Goodman explained that the reason she believes indys are so dangerous is because they allow people to speak for themselves, which can ultimately result in people relating to individuals stories and creating a common ground. This is something that Goodman believes is the first step towards peace. She told the audience that she believed that if mainstream media were to do its job – “to be the fourth estate not ‘for the state'” – and return to being a form of checks and balances on those who run countries, at home and abroad, the world would be a better place.
Goodman told many stories that represented the way Democracy Now! runs to get the most honest stories possible. She explained that she believed it is a journalist’s job to give a voice to those which are often not heard. She talked about multiple different situations where Democracy Now! covered events through conversations with participants in protests and often times chooses to publish truthful stories mainstream media outlets would never publish. She talked about the importance of coverage of movements like Tahrir Square and Occupy Wall Street. Beyond this, she spoke about importance of covering other events Thomas Young’s struggles after being paralyzed in Iraq, Troy Davis’s death sentence (and the unfairness of the whole process) and other negatives that fell upon Davis and his family as well as the impact execution has on those who kill people for a living. She talked about Rosa Parks and the impact not many know she had, as well as the message Emmett Till’s mother sent to the media by having her son’s funeral be an open casket funeral, despite being found at the bottom of a river.
Goodman believes that the mainstream media, instead of maintaining a neutral view on the war in Iraq began “beating the drums for war.” She explained that if the mainstream media functioned as it should, this would not be the case. “If images of war were published every week,” Goodman said, “images that told the true the story of war, I think Americans would say war is not the solution to conflict.”
Finally, Goodman spoke about one final event, which truly showed her, as well as other members of Democracy Now!’s staff dedication to giving a voice to those without voices. She spoke about her trip to East Timor, where she and her camera man were beaten by members of the Indonesian army. Because the US was allied with Indonesia, the mainstream never covered the genocide that took place for over twenty years in this small nation. Goodman’s attempt to report on the true state of life in East Timor, and put her life on the line to get the story out into the eyes of the public.
Goodman described the representation of American’s in other countries. She told her audience that she believed that people in other countries see us as a sword and a shield. A sword, because we have the ability to create weapons that many nations have access to – we make the world a more dangerous place. But at the same time, we have the freedom to speak out when we feel we are being wronged and to express our opinions. We have the ability to call a congressman when we disagree with some enactment, and can sometimes get legislation turned around.
I think that Amy’s work is extremely inspiring, and if I end up being a journalist that has even the slightest amount of passion and dedication to seeking the truth and reporting it as she does, I will feel blessed.