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Open Mike – Part II

And fellow radio journalist and columnist Laura Flanders says: “It’s important to look at the role she’s played for other reporters in the field. Young people in journalism school and just coming into the field say, ïWe want to hold the feet of those in power to the fire. We want to challenge conventional wisdom.’ Of course, most go into the corporate media corps, but Amy provides an important model for these people. She acts as a mentor to young journalists, especially at WBAI, and helps to maintain their optimism and their ideals. She’s a model of bravery for journalists, and it’s important for people to see a woman in that role.”

After a letter from Goodman addressed to Pacifica’s executive director, Bessie Wash, and the network’s board of directors—which outlined Pacifica’s requests and countercharged Pacifica with harassment, gender harassment, and censorship—was leaked and posted on various Internet sites, there was an immediate outpouring of public support for Goodman. Media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) issued an “Action Alert” encouraging supporters of Democracy Now! to contact members of the Pacifica board, helpfully listing e-mail addresses and phone and fax numbers on its site. Board member Leslie Cagan, who supports Goodman’s autonomy, received 850 e-mails in support of Goodman in just three days. Within a week of the news, demonstrations were coordinated by listeners and held at the five principal Pacifica stations—WBAI in New York City, KPFK in Los Angeles, KPFA in Berkeley, KPFT in Houston, and WPFW in Washington, D.C.

While Goodman’s career in professional journalism began upon her arrival at WBAI 16 years ago, she has always challenged those in power and pursued the underreported. As a college student at Harvard, she helped to revive a feminist newspaper called Seventh Sister and wrote about sexual harassment on campus. Studying medical anthropology, Goodman wrote her thesis on the injectable contraceptive Depo Provera, for which she observed and interviewed a group of 10,000 African American women in Atlanta on whom the drug was being tested without their being aware that it had not yet garnered FDA approval. At her thesis defense, one professor commented that he did not consider her paper a work of anthropology, because “you’re supposed to be an observer of another culture, not your own.” Goodman replied: “This is looking at science, society, and the U.S., which is run by a white male scientific elite. I don’t consider myself a part of that culture, so I think I’m in the perfect position to analyze it from an outsider’s perspective.” The professor responded, “Ms. Goodman, continue, continue.” Her work in this field led Goodman to the U.N. Population Conference in Mexico in 1984. Depo Provera was also being pushed on Mexican women without their knowledge that the drug had yet to be approved in the States. Goodman eventually turned her research into a series of pieces (cowritten with Krystyna Von Henneberg) for Multinational Monitor, a corporate accountability magazine.

The current assault on Democracy Now! is prompting the show’s fans to become activists in the Amy Goodman tradition. When asked if Democracy Now! is intended to promote activism, Goodman says, “It’s to have people engage in civil society, and yes, to get active, because that’s the only way for a democracy to function. The saying at the Seattle protests was, This is what democracy looks like, this is what democracy sounds like. And I hope that’s what Democracy Now! is about—it’s not democracy whenever, it’s democracy now.” As e-mails supporting her continue to flow into the in-boxes of Pacifica managers, as listeners protest in the streets, and as magazines and newspapers cover her story, it has become clear that Amy Goodman’s hopes are being met, and with the very passion she inspires.

Hillary Frey is assistant literary editor at the Nation.

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