Amy Goodman visits campus

Amy Goodman visits campus

On the importance of independent news

Sam Deschamps

This weekend, award-winning independent journalist Amy Goodman gave a talk at the University of Guelph.

The auditorium in Rozanski 104 where Goodman spoke was packed with like-minded people from Guelph and neighbouring communities.

Before the talk, audience members chatted about the failure of establishment democrats to embrace Bernie Sanders and the link between humanity’s failure to properly address climate change and the increased intensity of hurricanes in the Southern United States.

The subject matter was indicative of the person everybody came to see, Amy Goodman, co-founder of the independent news site Democracy Now!

Amy Goodman is a giant of independent news and her legacy is giving voice to a majority silenced by the bottleneck effect that accompanies mainstream news and media coverage.

The moment she entered the room the audience erupted with applause, which did not die down until she met the podium and began speaking. This set the tone for the two-hour talk, where Goodman’s comments were often met with applause.

In 1991, Goodman and fellow journalist Allan Nairn covered the East Timor independence movement, where they were badly beaten by Indonesian soldiers.

In 1996, she founded Democracy Now!

In 1998, Goodman and investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill (co-founder of The Intercept) covered Chevron Corporation’s role in providing helicopter transport to the Nigerian military to deal with the occupation of oil rigs by village protesters. Two of the protesters were shot and killed.

Throughout her talk, Goodman’s anecdotes and stories were either heartbreaking or humorous. Amy Goodman stands up for the most marginalized communities in North American society and still finds it possible to be warm and compassionate, and the audience reciprocated.

During Goodman’s two-hour talk, she covered:

Climate change denial

The targeting of immigrants by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement in America

Protests in the NFL

The future of healthcare in America

The importance and value of independent news

One of the more significant events to happen to Goodman recently involves both climate change and the value of independent news: the protest at Standing Rock revolving around the Dakota Access Pipeline, which Goodman covered for Democracy Now!

Goodman and her team managed to capture video of security forces pepper spraying and letting loose attack dogs on peaceful protestors. Within two days of posting a video of this altercation to Facebook, it had gone viral, grossing 14 million views. It received mainstream coverage from CBS, NBC, and CNN. It prompted a Malaysian woman in Laos to ask President Obama about the Dakota Access Pipeline. The influence of this video from an independent news site was far-reaching.

This video also earned Goodman and the protestors at Standing Rock arrest warrants. Due to the amount of attention the video received, the mainstream media were unable to ignore it and reported on it. This placed extra pressure on the judge overseeing the case, who dropped the charges against Goodman and the Sioux involved in the protest.

It’s as Goodman said in her talk:

“This is what happens when media shines a spotlight in the right direction. This is the kind of reality TV we need.”

Amy Goodman has inspired journalists across the globe

Carlos Mandujano

With her presence in Guelph this weekend, it is important to note how impactful Amy Goodman’s work has been on local broadcasters.

Carlos Mandujano

Scott Hertz-McWhinnie is a broadcaster at CFRU where he co-hosts, Open Sources Guelph, a weekly political news and current affairs program. He also interviewed Goodman onstage during her Sunday appearance.

“I was influenced in every way,” said Hertz-McWhinnie when asked how Goodman influenced his work as a broadcaster.

“I first listened to Democracy Now! back when I started volunteering at CFRU. She would be covering people who were not quite in the shadows, but not people on the mainstream media either. There are people out there whose stories need to be told, and Amy Goodman has made those people a priority.”

When asked which of Goodman’s values resonated with him most, he said “her mission to tell the particular stories that she tells.” He elaborated:

“It’s not often that reporters find themselves in the line of fire. It takes an independent reporter like her to get in there. And there are challenges out there, certain roadblocks: you could get arrested, the potential threat to your life — depending on the setting.”  

Lastly, The Ontarion asked Hertz-McWhinnie about the ongoing relevance of Democracy Now!

“I think if they keep doing what they are doing, and keep the honesty and integrity I believe that they have, they won’t have to be pressured to stay relevant or important, because they are,” he said.

Photo by Alora Griffiths/The Ontarion.