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Honoring the New Age: Ithaca College’s Park Center for Independent Media Presents First Izzy Award
Standing behind the podium, Amy Goodman's voice resonated to the back of the State Theatre. She spoke forcefully, striking the air with her fists as she discussed the importance of the independent media.
"We play a special role in society," she said. "This is the time for independent media, and we're very excited. It's growing all over the world."
The Park Center for Independent Media honored Goodman, the main host of Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now! program, and Glenn Greenwald, blogger for www.Salon.com, to a crowd of about 800 on Tuesday at the State Theatre. The guests were recognized for their accomplishments in independent journalism.
Jeff Cohen, PCIM director, began the awards ceremony by setting the stage for future awards.
"Everybody's heard of the Oscars and the Emmys," he said. "Get ready for the Izzys."
The iconic investigative journalist I.F. Stone lived by the motto he created - "All governments lie." This way of thinking has shaped the way many journalists have broken out of the mainstream media and stepped into the realm of independent media.
Dianne Lynch, dean of the Roy H. Park School of Communications, said PCIM has advocated this type of thinking and has created an award named after Stone to recognize "special achievement in independent media."
Robert W. McChesney, University of Illinois communications professor; Linda Jue, director and executive editor of San Francisco-based G.W. Williams Center for Independent Journalism; and Cohen chose Goodman and Greenwald based on their "path-breaking journalistic courage and persistence in confronting conventional wisdom and official deception."
Ithaca College President Tom Rochon said the ceremony is a wonderful start for PCIM.
"It has had the most successful launch in its first year than anyone could have imagined," he said. "It puts Ithaca College in the forefront of attention for independent media."
Lynch said the new center, as well as the Izzy Award, is a celebration of the well-being of journalism even in a new environment. She said this is meant to get students thinking about career paths in independent media.
"You can be a Glenn or an Amy without having to be in a traditional newsroom," she said. "Izzy Stone represents the history of investigative journalism - the tradition and the ethics - and we hope to continue that in the Park School."
Jeremy J. Stone, Izzy Stone's son, was first to speak.
He said Izzy Stone was an investigative journalist who started his own newspaper at the age of 14. He went on to set the tone for other journalists, exposing U.S. corporations as an editor of The Nation and self-published the I.F. Stone's Weekly, where he spoke out against former Sen. Joe McCarthy during the Red Scare of the 1950s.
"His capacity for thinking independently, and acting on principle, isolated him from just about everyone," Stone said during his speech. "He said he was so happy in his work that he should be ‘arrested.'"
Stone said Goodman's career has similarities to his father's because she tells her audience information it doesn't get from traditional media.
Goodman has created one of the largest public media collaborations, Democracy Now!, a daily independent television news program that airs on more than 300 stations. She said receiving the award means a great deal to her.
"I.F. Stone has so much to teach us all ... to be critical, to be ever questioning, no matter what administration, to not be seduced to the power that I call the ‘access of evil,'" she said.
Goodman said journalists should do what they believe is in the best interest of their audience, not in the best interest of their government.
Sophomore Sara Rawson said her skepticism about the mainstream media was confirmed at the ceremony.
"All newspapers, Web sites, radios and TV stations need to do what Goodman and Greenwald have done," Rawson said. "Every journalist needs to strive for exposing the truth."
At the awards, Rawson said she learned that there are news outlets to go to where she doesn't have to be as skeptical but said she wishes all outlets would just tell the truth.
Rawson said she looks up to Goodman for all she has done for her profession - she was arrested for trying to cover a protest, called out media conglomerates for wrongdoings and challenged politicians.
"Lies take lives," Goodman said boldly in her speech. "It's our job as journalists to break the sound barrier and go where the silence is."
Stone compared his father to Greenwald as well. Though Greenwald only started his journalism career about four years ago, he was able to create his own blog focusing on political and legal topics and recently moved on to the popular Web site www.Salon.com.
"I've used [the Izzy Stone] model, and there are times now when I consciously think about how he engaged in his reporting and what enabled him to maintain his independence," Greenwald said.
Greenwald said he was thrilled to receive an award in Stone's honor. He then stood up in front of the podium and provoked the audience with a question: How can there be journalism without independence?
Greenwald said many people think there are no more differences between a blogger like himself and a journalist for a mainstream newspaper. He said this is not true, as mainstream journalists are not free to write about what they deem important.
"There is a fundamental and radical difference in the mentality of a blogger and a journalist," he said. "Bloggers are a reaction to what those journalists do."
Senior Karin Fleming, the editor of Buzzsaw, the college's alternative magazine, said the audience was very receptive to points the speakers made.
"They agreed with a lot of what was said about the definition of journalism and why journalists need to maintain their independence and stay away from the corporate media structure," she said.
Greenwald said real journalists, who seek to empower the truth, need to remain distant from and not be a part of any type of government power.
"There's no way to be a journalist without being independent," he said, answering his own question.
He said the problem is that today the concept of journalism is distorted. Though this may be the case, he said one can redeem this definition of journalism by remaining completely free of government.
"If it's not independent, it's not journalism," Greenwald said.