'Go to Where the Silence Is': An interview with Amy Goodman on the twenty-fifth anniversary of DEMOCRACY NOW!(INTERVIEW)

AuthorStockwell, Norman

Amy Goodman is the host and executive producer of Democracy Now!, an award-winning daily news program now airing on more than 1,500 public and community radio and television stations around the world. Goodman has co-authored six New York Times bestsellers, most recently Democracy Now!: Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America. We spoke by phone in early January.

Q: Democracy Now! is celebrating It's twenty-fifth anniversary on February 19. Tell us where the program has gone during the past quarter-century.

Amy Goodman: When I first got the call to host Democracy Now!, I was at a safe house, covering the elections in Haiti. And there, people who announced for office would often be gunned down. People who went to the polls could be killed, but still the vast majority of Haitians would vote.

So when I got the call to host a daily election show, I was saying, "My God, we live in the most powerful country on Earth. But still most people do not vote." I thought it would be fascinating to look at why people were not voting when their vote made a difference, not only in the United States but all over the world.

I never thought it was because of apathy. I wanted to find out what people were doing in their communities. That's really what we did those nine months of the broadcast from just after Valentine's Day in 1996. I really think of it as news with a heart.

After the election, we were going to fold up. We'd done our project. We had been the only daily election show in public media. We were broadcasting on nine community radio stations. But there was more demand for the show after the election, when President Bill Clinton was re-elected, than there was before. People really wanted to hear from the grassroots, those authentic voices, not those typical pundits you get on the networks who know so little about so much, explaining the world to us and getting it so wrong.

Q: Tell us about a memorable moment.

Goodman: The week of the terrorist attack, September 11, 2001, we were the closest national broadcast to Ground Zero. We were broadcasting that day in the evacuation zone, and I knew if we went out, the police would make us leave. And we felt it was critical to continue to broadcast the voices of people like, well, the late great historian, Howard Zinn, as the battle cry was coming from the White House.

In New York City, where thousands died at the World Trade Center, people were comforting each other, putting up signs on park benches and lampposts. "Have you seen my brother last seen in Tower One?" "Have you seen my aunt last seen in Tower Two?"...

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