Like a cool breeze following a hot and muggy June afternoon, Amy Goodman and her small entourage swept into Madison, Milwaukee and Stevens Point last week to promote her book, "Exception to the Rulers."
This is a different kind of book tour. Goodman continued to broadcast her daily radio/TV show "Democracy Now!" while speaking to university students, signing books and submitting to interviews from all comers. She is, to say the least, refreshing.
"Democracy Now!" airs at 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. weekdays on WYOU-TV, the city's community channel, and on the Pacifica radio network, carried by WORT/FM 89.9. "Democracy Now!" is the only news show that airs simultaneously on radio and TV. If you miss the programs, go to www.FightingBob.com and hit the links button to "Democracy Now!"
You won't get the latest Dow Jones or NASDAQ news, the activity on the Japanese stock exchange, the price of gold or 15 minutes of weather. No, you get what we used to call "news." And Goodman covers the news that the powers that be do not want covered.
Goodman is full of enthusiasm for the project, optimistic about the ability to reach a broad audience and, of course, very critical of so-called "mainstream" media. She points out that in the two weeks leading up to the invasion of Iraq, the four major nightly newscasts - on ABC, NBC, CBS and "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" on PBS - there were 393 interviews done about the war. Only three interviews were with anti-war representatives. Opponents of the invasion were a statistical blip.
"That is no longer mainstream media," Goodman says. "That does not reflect mainstream America at a time when a majority of Americans opposed an invasion without more inspections for weapons of mass destruction, and diplomacy."
She is right. By dubbing themselves "mainstream," the networks subliminally convince people that anything to the left of center is outside the mainstream. The fact is, commercial television is so far in the pocket of its corporate sponsors that it can't even see the mainstream, let alone swim in it.
And, as we know, these "mainstreamers" are using our airwaves. "They are using a national treasure," Goodman says. "I think people are outraged about the (conduct of the war). We simply have media that do not reflect that outrage." Again, she is right.
Here is the good news. From humble beginnings, "Democracy Now!" is on more than 220 radio stations around the country and increasingly is carried on National Public Radio stations. And, Goodman reports, in many markets it has more listeners than NPR's "Morning Edition," "because people are hungry for grass-roots voices - for independent voices."
The program will soon air on two PBS TV stations - one an American Indian station in Montana - as well as on Free Speech TV, which is Channel 9415 for those with satellite dishes.
Amy Goodman's book, "Exception to the Rulers," demands that media put rulers' feet to the fire. "We are supposed to be the check and balance on government," she says. Can't say it any better than that.
Predictably, the major newspapers are not reviewing Amy Goodman's book. After all, she is not just raising issues about the conduct of the war, the effectiveness of homeland security or the operation of our prisons; she is questioning what we used to call the Fourth Estate, the only profession protected by our Constitution.
I am increasingly optimistic about our ability to get into people's homes through the side and back doors and through their computers, even if the front door has three deadbolt locks. Amy Goodman's program will beat the pants off of Tucker Carlson's new TV magazine program on PBS. And there really is no purpose in providing the Wall Street Journal's editorial page editor, Paul Gigot, with a weekly PBS show, as is proposed, when mainstream media reflect the values of Wall Street every day. If PBS wants some balance, try airing Amy Goodman or even Lou Dobbs. Gigot on PBS would be gilding the corporate lily.
It would be one thing to have some of the superb Wall Street Journal reporters on once a week, but who reads the Wall Street Journal editorials anyway? If you need to hear the latest right-wing mantra, watch Fox News and save a buck.
Wisconsin Public Radio has been a real treasure in Wisconsin and continues to produce great programs hosted by Joy Cardin, Steve Paulson, Kathleen Dunn and others.
The concern is not with these good folks. It is, rather, with the centralization of programming in Washington under the guise of more consistent quality.
"Talk of the Nation," as an example, is perfectly OK, but it is not a substitute for local programming. If they can go after Bill Moyers at PBS, remove Bob Edwards from NPR without an explanation, accept advertising from Archer Daniels Midland and Wal-Mart, I say keep listening but "keep your powder dry." And while you are at it, treat yourself to "Democracy Now!" and check out FightingBob.com.
For kicks, sit back, close your eyes and imagine the "60 Minutes" interview with Bill Clinton conducted by Amy Goodman instead of Dan Rather.
Ed Garvey, the Democratic nominee for governor in 1998, is a Madison lawyer and the editor of the fightingbob.com Web site. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2003 The Capital Times