This March, for Women’s History Month, the Ms. Blog is profiling Wonder Women who have made history—and those who are making history right now. Join us each day as we bring you the stories of iconic and soon-to-be-famous feminist change-makers.
“The role of reporters is to go to where the silence is and say something.” – Amy Goodman
Journalists play a special role in history. They don’t just participate in the happenings of a time, but record it for posterity. This is precisely why independent media is so important. If we only have corporate network news clips when recalling pivotal events, we will have a very myopic view of our past indeed.
Amy Goodman is a journalist who uncompromisingly fulfills her responsibility. As the host and executive producer of the radio broadcast Democracy Now! for the last 19 years, she and her news team often get to stories first and interview valuable sources so that the public can get a well-rounded story.
Amy’s childhood experiences set the stage for her interest in fairness and justice. According to an interview in Frontline, she explains that her father was passionate about the integration of schools when she was growing up in the 1970s, even though it was an unpopular stance, and her mother’s family was long committed to social justice. She says, “I grew up in a political household. My parents were peace activists in Bay Shore, Long Island. … My mother taught women’s history and literature in college and went on to become a social worker. They were great role models for me.” This clearly passed on to all of the children in her family: In 2008, she co-wrote a book with her brother, David Goodman, (a contributing writer at Mother Jones), called Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times about modern activists.
Amy has had a lifelong calling as a journalist. She says in an interview with MAKERS that she began writing editorials against the unfair policies of her school administration when she was in high school—now, she says, she gets to hold world leaders accountable instead. After college, she produced an evening news show for the vanguard Pacifica Radio’s New York City station. In 1996, she was asked to host an election show. This show evolved into today’s Democracy Now!
As Amy tells MAKERS, “We need a media that provides a forum for people to speak for themselves.” Democracy Now! aims to be this forum. They give voice to the voiceless each day.
They bring up stories before the mainstream media is ready, and then those stories are picked up by major outlets so everyone can see them. One significant example was in 2011, when they interviewed leaders at Occupy Wall Street before it even began. In the past few weeks, they covered the death of Jessica Hernandez, an LGBT teen from Colorado who was killed by police officers, before most other outlets picked up the story or noted its significance. Their coverage included not just the police officers and national LGBT organizations, but also clips from other teens who were in the car. Democracy Now! also broadcast from Denver, the scene of the crime. Of course, with social media it’s possible to report from miles away, but getting on the streets when an incident occurs makes for stronger and more accurate journalism.
As an independent women’s media outlet, Ms. is proud of the path Amy has forged as a political reporter. She explains: “I hope [my work with Democracy Now!] is a role model for many young women journalists: that you can be independent, unembedded and that this is the way that journalism should operate.”
Our grandkids’ history lessons will be stronger because we have journalists like Amy Goodman.
Photo courtesy of Democracy Now
Alexa Salvato studies journalism and women’s and gender studies at Ithaca College. She is passionate about feminism, writing and education. Check out more of her work at alexasalvato.wordpress.com.