May 20, 2013
Goodman on Goodman
Posted on Nov 30, 2009
In a rare turnabout of camera and subject, “Democracy Now!” host Amy Goodman talks with Truthdig’s Robert Scheer about the major inspirations and role models of her life, her life’s work, and how the ongoing crisis in journalism is really a crisis of truth.
Update: Transcript added below.
AMY GOODMAN: You have …
SCHEER: … on Truthdig, and we have a whole … for those of you watching it, you can go check out the archive. But don’t do that – buy the book, and it would be a good contribution.
SCHEER: Yes, do both. And I just am really impressed with all – you know, I teach at the University of Southern California’s [Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism] – everybody’s bemoaning the loss of media, and you know, there’s a loss, and you know, of the good old days. But they’re not coming back. But I think we’re into good old days now – or the beginning—what people will remember as good old days. And it has occurred to me: You are mass media. As someone who writes books and tries to get ‘em sold, I’d rather be on your show than I think anybody else[‘s]. I seem to get a bigger blip in sales when I do your show – is that correct?
GOODMAN: Well, yeah, it’s interesting. Crane’s magazine – Crane’s newspaper in New York wrote that Democracy Now! launches books. And I think it’s because people who watch and listen to and read Democracy Now! – ‘cause it’s online, it’s on radio, it’s on TV – care about the world. And it’s not exactly a particular political persuasion. Could be conservative, progressive, liberal … it’s people [who] are concerned about the fate of the earth and are motivated to do something about it. Or at least start to gather information.
You know, you’ve talked about this too, but the whole issue of the demise of the media – it’s terrible to see people put out of work—thousands of journalists have lost their jobs. But when you look at the media, um, it’s not just about the Internet. I really think that the wars, for example, and the Bush administration lying about weapons of mass destruction, exposed more than them. It exposed the entire U.S. media, because they act as a conveyor belt for the lies. And when it turned out weapons of mass destruction were not there, people started, well, trying to look for places they – what they were reading got it wrong. Where do they go to get it right?
And that’s turning to the universe of independent media. That’s not brought to us by the weapons manufacturers. Or when we’re talking about the issue of insurance and health care, that’s not brought to us by the insurance industry, not brought to us by Big Pharma, uh, the drug companies. Not brought to us, when we’re talking about global warming, by Exxon Mobil, Chevron, the coal companies, but brought to you by listeners, by viewers. It’s putting the me back in media. And there is an authenticity and a truth – or many truths – that I think have really captured the attention of so many. It goes beyond the Internet. It’s a crisis in journalism because there was a crisis in journalism.
GOODMAN: A crisis of truth.
SCHEER: You know, I think it’s a good point you’re making. First of all, the old model, which is broken, was a flawed model to begin with, because it was advertising-based. It was based on either a rich family owning a newspaper and willing to do something a little better, or a big corporation thinking you could make money by doing something a little better, and now people are talking about … So that model was always flawed. … There are lots of things you didn’t cover because the advertisers didn’t want you to, and then you had to target readers the advertisers wanted, the more affluent. The Los Angeles Times, for example, was famous for Otis Chandler, who was a very good publisher, saying basically he didn’t care if poor people read the paper, because the advertisers didn’t care.
But the new model scares me a little bit, because a lot of what is called independent journalism is dependent upon foundations, on rich people, you know, people who have an axe to grind, and there’s something … How do you do Democracy Now!—?
GOODMAN: Well, Democracy Now!—we just hit some landmarks, we just passed 800 stations on public radio and television stations and now globally. And that’s something the U.S. media didn’t really do much before. But we’re broadcasting every day in Sweden, once a week in Japan, just started in Cape Town, South Africa, in Austria. I’m talking television. Radio – all over the world. Television was always harder. And this is why the networks spent so much money. They spend millions to transmit video, you know, to transmit the visual image. And we have perfected a way on the Internet to actually transmit a broadcast-quality image through the Internet. So that makes it very cheap.
Still, of course, it costs, but to be able … Folks in Japan, volunteers, every week started downloading Democracy Now! and they translate it all into Japanese – it’s absolutely amazing – and Asahi Shimbun, one of the leading newspapers in Japan, also has a cable channel, the number two cable channel in the country, and they run Democracy Now! They sort of see it as the other America, and they have Japanese reporters commenting on it. And it’s listeners and viewers who support Democracy Now! Also foundations. Also just people going to DemocracyNow.org and buying books, DVDs, T-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies – believe it or not, that’s a lot of money. And it’s the commitment of people that, in order to have honest, authentic journalism, people are gonna have to support it.
And I think that – well, like Pacifica has trained us for 60 years that you … No one ever thought that would start – that could continue. They thought it would start but not continue. Lou Hill comes out of the detention camps, says there’s gotta be a media outlet not run by corporations of profit from war but run by journalists and artists. Who would have thought that would continue? That you could tune in. You had to actually give them a radio—it’s called “The Subscriber”—even to get the station – FM, it was in its infancy. You turned it on and someone’s begging for money. And yet it did. …
SCHEER: You know, by the way, you are too young to actually remember them, right?
GOODMAN: No, I didn’t know it; I read about it.
SCHEER: Yes, I bought one of them.
GOODMAN: You did?
SCHEER: Yes, they cost 29 dollars – they were a little box like this. People don’t realize. FM was – no one listened to FM; everything was AM. You had to go out and buy this little box, and then most of what you got was KPFA in Berkeley, and you listened to it. And we would listen on – we listened to Lawrence Ferlinghetti, we listened to Kenneth Rexroth …
GOODMAN: Wow …
SCHEER: You know, these people, and they would tell us all these things. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, actually – he had come out of the military, been in World War II, and he recalls – he was radicalized by listening to Pacifica in Berkeley, and then he started participating. But I never – I was a graduate student – I landed there in 1959 in Berkeley, and Pacifica was the center of the whole world.
On the other hand, these days, Pacifica’s torn apart – I don’t wanna discuss it – been torn apart by internal arguments and are you left enough and so on, but I try to get involved with the fundraising and so forth. But Democracy Now! has an integrity. And I wonder whether you can get that integrity with collective leadership. I was once the editor of Ramparts magazine, and I was in – I know about sectarian disputes, arguments. You – I’m not trying to flatter you, but you have brought an integrity to Democracy Now! with your own personality.
GOODMAN: Well, I work with a great brain trust …
SCHEER: I understand …
GOODMAN: … of people who I cannot minimize.
SCHEER: And they’re all around here now, and they’re gonna be angry with me, and I know, they work like dogs. They’re terrific. They’re smart and everything. The fact is: Amy Goodman doesn’t put up with bullshit. You don’t – you, you have …
GOODMAN: You can say that online?
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