Alibi V.16 No.34 • Aug 23-29, 2007 

Thin Line

How Soon is Now!?

Amy Goodman, host of the self-described progressive radio show Democracy Now!, is a revered investigative journalist and a media celebrity. Her program, hosted along with Juan Gonzalez, airs on more than 450 public, community, college, public access and satellite radio and television stations. Left-leaning individuals hailing from all walks of life, from Ivy League professors to pot-growing hippies, love her work. And for it she has garnered numerous awards and an impressive cast of intelligentsia friends (what up, Noam Chomsky?). Moreover, Goodman is regarded by many as heroic for her ongoing efforts to go "where the silence is."

But one begins to feel there is an air of artifice where Goodman has sought to lend a voice to the voiceless. It's just ... her tone. Or maybe her delivery. The way she turns a phrase, and how at the end she pauses and says the remaining words with a lowered tone and exaggerated emphasis. We can assume this is a mechanism designed for impact, not part of her normal speech pattern. It's unlikely she orders breakfast by saying, "I'll have a cup of coffee and ... a short stack."

Shifts in intonation aside, while Goodman relentlessly strides to call out the lies and betrayals of the mainstream media, her program seems to engage in the same games as these nemeses. Democracy Now!, as Goodman might have you believe, could be the one true voice amid a sea of phony, corporate, consolidated news sources. Consolidation, and the fraudulence tagging behind it, is an undeniable force all forms of independent media, not to mention the public, must reckon with. But this notion of Goodman as the bastion of independent news is unsettling because she is not a reporter, she is an advocacy journalist, a muckraker, and sometimes she's even a pundit.

For those not familiar with the genre of advocacy journalism, like muckraking and punditry, it is that which, according to Merriam-Webster, "advocates a cause or expresses a viewpoint." The problem is that advocacy journalism often lies beside regular news reporting, assuming the same objectivity. Only the media literate, who make up a small portion of the populace, can distinguish fact-based editorializing from fact-based reporting. This common journalistic conundrum is the problem with Democracy Now!—the show continues to be passed off as a news program, like Goodman is passed off as a simple journalist.

In our society pundits provide fodder, guidance and validation for our most blindly political members. It's not that Goodman doesn't do good work. At times, even when she's being a pundit, her stories, debates and interviews are brilliant. Unfortunately, Democracy Now!, with its rhetoric-drenched political waxing and air of self-righteousness, does a disservice to people of similar ideology by reiterating laughable leftist stereotypes, namely that of the "bleeding-heart liberal." Sadly, Goodman undermines herself and the rest of us by engaging in this myopic sleight of hand.