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Democracy Now! host champions independent media

Amy Goodman spoke in McConomy Auditorium on Thursday. (credit: Jonathan Carreon/Photo Editor) Amy Goodman spoke in McConomy Auditorium on Thursday. (credit: Jonathan Carreon/Photo Editor)

Investigative journalist, author, and co-founder and host of radio show Democracy Now! Amy Goodman made an appearance at McConomy Auditorium last Thursday.

Goodman’s lecture, which was part of a tour to promote her book The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance, and Hope, touched on controversial topics like abortion, war, and the upcoming election, but primarily focused on the importance of modern-day independent media.

“Hearing people speak for themselves: There’s nothing more powerful,” Goodman said. She stressed the importance of a grass-roots media that works to overcome oppressive “corporate media.”

Democracy Now! airs on WRCT, Carnegie Mellon’s student-run radio station. Computer science professor Daniel Sleator, who is part of the Pittsburgh Campaign for Democracy Now (PCDN) — which brought Goodman’s show to WRCT in 2003 — attended the lecture and gave a short opening talk.

“One of the things she emphasized is the need for independent media.... The need for independent, noncorporate media [that isn’t] diluting, distorting, and controlling what people see, what people know, what people believe. That was kind of the main theme,” Sleator said.

Goodman cited the mainstream media representation of the initial Iraq invasion as an example of the need for independent media. According to Goodman, because the Democratic and Republican establishment agreed at that time, the media did not report the strong anti-war sentiment present in the country.

“You had this extreme press instead beating the drums for war,” she said. “The four major nightly newscasts, out of 393 interviews they did in the week leading up to and after Colin Powell’s address ... three were with anti-war representatives. That does not represent mainstream America.”

Goodman kept her lecture interesting with anecdotes from her life as an investigative journalist, her time in East Timor, and her arrest during a 2008 Republican convention. She pressed the issue of localization of politics and the danger of unheard voices, implying that dominating corporate ideals reflected through the media are detrimental to the voices of the people.

Sleator said that in particular, Goodman’s anecdotes about seeing the graves of Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony, and Mitt Romney shaking hands with one of the Koch brothers at the Republican National Convention resonated with him.

“She told a whole bunch of stories like that. She’s a very articulate, encyclopedic speaker. She knows so many stories and so much history,” Sleator said.

Attendance at the talk was not limited to Carnegie Mellon students and faculty.

“It looked like a real mix,” Sleator said. “I saw a lot of people who definitely weren’t students also. I saw some people from the Occupy movement. One professor brought his whole class.”

“I was very impressed with the turnout,” said junior vocal performance major Kati Richer, who is a staff representative for WRCT, which hosted the talk. “For me, to see all these people who listen to our campus radio station, it really felt great. The entirety of McConomy was packed. There were people sitting on the stairs.”

Closing out the well-attended and engaging lecture, Goodman said, “I think the media could be the greatest force for peace on earth, but instead it’s wielded as a weapon.”