with Richard Tewes

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To Amy Goodman, Independent Media's 'the Oxygen of Democracy'

Take a deep breath, everyone. 

When Democracy Now! host and author Amy Goodman was asked  why listeners should support KVMR 89.5 FM during the non-profit radio station's membership drive last week, here was her reply:

"Because independent media is the oxygen of democracy."

Whew, think about that for a moment.

Well, this Saturday at 6 p.m., Goodman comes to town for a talk and book signing that completely benefits independent media KVMR at the Center for the Arts in downtown Grass Valley. 

It's part of, gulp, a 100-city tour that Amy -- as listeners fondly call her -- is on to promote her new book "Democracy Now!: Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America", written with her brother, journalist David Goodman, and her associate, Denis Moynihan (who will also be at the Saturday event).

Moynihan and Goodman collaborate each week on a national op-ed column, which The Union has carried since the passing of progressive columnist Molly Ivins. 

The new book, which last week entered The New York Times best seller list in politics,  spotlights how the radio/television series hallmarks the  grassroots efforts around the globe for peace and social justice because "grassroots  movements matter more than any single politician," Amy told The Santa Fe Reporter earlier in the tour.

Amy has been the main host of the series since it began exactly two decades ago on a handful of Pacifica Foundation and community radio stations in 1996 to cover that year's election, with Larry Bensky of Berkeley's  KPFA as an original co-host.  He left the series in 1997 to become a father. 

Now "Democracy Now!" is on over 1,400 stations globally, including public radio and television stations, community radio, cable access stations, and several progressive satellite networks. 

KVMR originally had volunteers taping the show off KPFA in 1996 but dropped the show because the station didn't have satellite access.  They resumed the show during the day of September 11, 2001 "when our mainstream media news sources were starting to play blame and retribution games the very day of the U.S. attacks," recalls KVMR Program Director Steve Baker. 

"So we had the idea to call up KPFA and have them put us on hold so we could rebroadcast via phone  Democracy Now!, which they were carrying live from Ground Zero, near Amy's studio. Like many radio stations, you hear their broadcast when you're put on hold."

Constantly improving technology made it easy for KVMR to carry the series from that day forward.  It currently airs at 7 p.m. weeknights. 

Goodman got her start producing news at Pacifica's  WBAI New York City station in 1985, and she traveled in 1991 to East Timor to report on the U.S.-backed Indonesian occupation of East Timor, where she and colleague Allan Nairn witnessed Indonesian soldiers gun down 270 East Timorese.  The pair were beaten by soldiers, with Nairn suffering a fractured skull protecting Amy.  Their documentary, "Massacre: The Story of East Timor", won numerous awards. 

On Election Day in 2000, Amy and a WBAI colleague conducted a memorable half-hour interview with then-President Bill Clinton, who'd called the station "to get out the vote." Instead, the two asked hard-hitting questions the President wasn’t used to hearing. By the end, Clinton called Amy "hostile" and "combative" and at times "disrespectful". Goodman said she was just doing her job.

And that's the kind of work that's earned Goodman the I.F. Stone medal for Journalistic Independence Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014, and Amy was the first journalist to receive the Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the 'Alternative Nobel Prize. 

That she won for "developing an innovative model of truly independent grassroots political journalism that brings to millions of people the alternative voices that are often excluded by the mainstream media." 

Jeez, drum roll please. 

"On our show, you're hearing the movement makers and shakers, not the pundits, you know, that small circle who know so little about so much, explaining the world to us and getting it wrong," Goodman says with a slight smile. 

That leads to this guiding philosophy on her show. 

"Whether you're talking about a Palestinian child, an Israeli grandmother or a kid in the South Bronx, when you hear someone describing their own experience, it breaks down barriers that fuel the hate groups, because hate groups thrive on ignorance, on people not knowing each other," she told the Santa Fe Reporter. "You look at this presidential election and the kind of underbelly of hate that is being tapped when Donald Trump says we're going to build a wall, stop all Muslims from coming into the country.  He's tapping into fear.

"But If people know each other, it makes it much less likely that they'll want to destroy each other.  I just think the media can be the greatest force for peace on earth, and instead it's wielded as a weapon of hate."  

Goodman's speeches are often given with few, if any, notes.  She's known as "a walking encyclopedia" of progressive values, and others call her speeches "true stemwinders." 

In fact, she's spoken numerous times here in support of previous books, most recently in 2012 --and pitched dozens of times on KVMR's membership drives, often at 10 p.m. New York time.  After one local talk, she and Moynihan came back to Nevada City's Little League Field two days later to attend a memorial service for folksinger/activist U. Utah Phillips in 2008.

This time around, the Grass Valley talk is the last of about 15 California appearances scheduled on this bustling book tour.  In fact, she's in San Mateo earlier Saturday, comes here, then returns to catch a redeye flight at SFO to her next appearance the following day. 

"I always feel excited to come and celebrate KVMR with you," she beamed to listeners last week. 

"You know, I told some friends I was going on a 100-city tour, and they said 'See you next year.'" Goodman recalls. "'No, I replied, I'll be back in five weeks.'"

Um, do the math...



WHO:  Democracy Now! host and author Amy Goodman 

WHAT:  A KVMR benefit talk and book signing for "Democracy Now!: 20 Years Covering the Movements Changing America" 

 WHEN:  6 p.m., Saturday, April 30 (with VIP "meet and greet" reception at 5 p.m.)

WHERE: The Center for the Arts, 314 West Main Street, downtown Grass Valley.

 TICKETS:  $30 general, $25 KVMR members, $75 VIP (includes free book, reserved seat, pre-talk "meet and greet" reception) available at Briar Patch, Grass Valley, and through KVMR's website, kvmr.org

INFO:  265-9073 or kvmr.org