Democracy Now! visits Ashland
Kristi Wright, 27.12.2012 16:36
“We need a strong, independent media, a media that serves the interests of the silenced majority,” said Amy Goodman, host of independent news program Democracy Now!, speaking to a sold-out crowd at Ashland High School’s Mountain Avenue Theater. Goodman and co-author Denis Moynihan were traveling the country to promote their book, The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance, and Hope, and to raise money for independent television and radio stations.
Amy Goodman signs books at KSKQ fundraiser
Along the way, they learned about how people are organizing at the grassroots level, the effects of new voter ID laws, and the consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that allowed unlimited campaign contributions. The 100-city Silenced Majority Tour began in late August at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Goodman and Moynihan visited more than 70 cities before reaching Ashland. The October 28 event was a benefit for radio station KSKQ and Southern Oregon Public Television (SOPTV).
Democracy Now!, a production of Pacifica Radio, is an independent global news program. Its mission is to provide “access to people and perspectives rarely heard in the US corporate-sponsored media, including independent and international journalists, ordinary people from around the world who are directly affected by US foreign policy, grassroots leaders and peace activists, artists, academics and independent analysts.”
In the Rogue Valley, Democracy Now! is broadcast weekdays on SOPTV-World 8.2/Channel 21 at 7:00 AM and 10:00 PM. In Ashland, it airs weekdays on KSKQ 89.5 FM at 12:00 PM. The program is broadcast on the web as well as on more than 1100 television and radio stations across the country. It is financed entirely by contributions from viewers, listeners, and foundations.
When asked what motivates her, Goodman replied, “Public media is a huge kitchen table that stretches across the globe. We all sit around it, debating and discussing the most important issues of the day: war and peace, life and death. Anything less is a disservice to a democratic society.” This was Goodman’s fourth trip to Ashland in support of public media. She visited in 2005, 2006, and 2009.
The importance of public media was emphasized throughout the event. Goodman criticized the effects of advertising and corporate underwriting on the editorial integrity of media outlets, citing pressure on those outlets to avoid airing substantive debates about issues in which their funders have a financial stake. To illustrate, she noted the lack of discussion on climate change during the presidential debates, despite rising global temperatures and a higher incidence of extreme weather events. The Commission on Presidential Debates, which has run the debates since 1988, is controlled by the Republican and Democratic parties, which receive contributions from oil companies that would likely lose money if legislation to counteract climate change were enacted.
Citing financial connections between corporate media outlets and defense contractors that profit from war, Goodman denounced the lack of critical reporting on the effects of United States military ventures, including civilian deaths from drone strikes as well as high rates of mental illness and unemployment among veterans. “We no longer have a mainstream media,” said Goodman. “We have an extreme media beating the drums for war.”
Southern Oregon Public Television (SOPTV), which organized the speaking event, is a PBS member station serving southern Oregon and northern California. It is a nonprofit, commercial-free station that produces educational programming on a variety of topics that are of interest to the community. It relies on viewer contributions.
Community radio station KSKQ, which is based in Ashland, is also funded by contributions from its audience. The station is an affiliate member of Pacifica Radio, which is the network that produces Democracy Now! With more than 50 volunteer producers and staff, KSKQ provides a platform for community voices and offers opportunities for anyone to learn radio and communication skills. The station hosted a meet-and-greet with Goodman to raise money for its WATTS UP! campaign, which will fund equipment upgrades allowing the station to expand its reach from Ashland to most of Jackson County.
At the meet-and-greet, Goodman signed copies of her book and chatted with guests. Although tired from a busy tour schedule, Goodman smiled warmly as each person approached her, taking the time to shake each person’s hand and have a conversation about how they are involved in the community. Among the guests was activist Deb Rothschild, who spoke about how Goodman inspires her. “No matter how much you do as an activist, seeing Amy reminds you how much more you can do.” Rothschild and her husband Herb spoke with Goodman about their involvement in Peace House, an Ashland nonprofit devoted to education, outreach, and action on social justice issues.
Democracy Now! was founded to cover the 1996 election. Due to the program’s popularity, Pacifica Radio decided to continue it after the election. Since then, Democracy Now! has served as a platform for grassroots movements and marginalized voices, including peace activists, revolutionaries, environmentalists, labor organizers, academics, artists, independent analysts, and many others. The program and staff have won dozens of awards for their investigative reports.
Public media such as SOPTV, KSKQ, and Pacifica Radio are vital for facilitating the free and open exchange of ideas, which is increasingly important in an environment dominated by for-profit media with financial connections to powerful interest groups. Ongoing support from the community will ensure that public media organizations such as SOPTV, KSKQ, and Pacifica continue to produce quality programming in the public interest.
“The media is absolutely essential to the functioning of a democracy,” said Goodman. “It’s not our job to cozy up to power. We’re supposed to be the check and balance on government.”
To support KSKQ, visit kskq.org or call (541) 482-3999. To support SOPTV, visit soptv.org or call (800) 888-1847.
Kristi Wright is a community organizer and advocate for social justice. Oregon Action board member. She helps progressive organizations achieve their goals by utilizing her skills in publicity, graphic design, website development, social media, writing, and editing. Email her at email@example.com.