Connecting Indie-Media Dots

The mainstream media gets it wrong; governments lie; people are fighting back.

That's Amy Goodman's America.

Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!, an hour-long radio, TV and online news program which has grown, from humble beginnings 13 years ago, into a grassroots institution for the left. Her show, on each weekday, focuses on stories that the major media outlets won't touch, and tries to hold those in power accountable.

"We need a media that covers power, not covers for power," Goodman says in an interview with the Weekly. "A media that is the fourth estate, not for the state, and a media that covers the movements that create (opposition) and make history."

Goodman is coming to Tucson as part of a tour to benefit independent media and promote her latest book, Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times. All proceeds from the speech/book-signing, which is expected to sell out, will go to KXCI FM 91.3 and Access Tucson, which both broadcast her show.

Goodman's visit comes at a helpful time, according to Access Tucson executive director Sam Behrend, because the city government is beyond broke, and funding for the community television station has been slashed.

The station is supported by small monthly fees collected from cable subscribers for the express purpose of funding community media, Behrend says, but the city government collects and distributes the money as if it is part of the general fund. The budget cuts have forced Access Tucson to fire administrative staff, cut hours and benefits, and close the station for the month of June.

Still, that's better than what could have happened. Before being fired by the Tucson City Council, city manager Mike Hein included the total elimination of funding for Access Tucson on a list of budget options.

While they're still expecting devastating cuts under the new city manager's budget, Behrend thinks the station will survive and continue to service the Tucson community.

"Particularly at a time when the print media and local voices in the media are being diminished ... Access Tucson provides the opportunity for ordinary citizens, and groups and organizations, to use what is still the prevailing medium of our time, television, to enable Tucsonans to exchange ideas, information, values, cultures, religion, arts, etcetera," says Behrend.

Meanwhile, KXCI, Tucson's listener-supported community radio station, is actually doing quite well. This March, KXCI had its most successful membership drive ever, raising more than $100,000, according to acting general manager Randy Peterson.

"In a down economy, people really think about where best to use their disposable income, and maybe are cutting off some charities that they gave a little bit of money to, so that they can make meaningful gifts to the ones that are most important to them," Peterson says.

KXCI started broadcasting Democracy Now! more than a decade ago. It was the first station to broadcast the show in Arizona, Peterson says, and probably one of the first 20 stations in the country.

When listeners call the station to donate, the staff asks them to name their favorite shows, and Peterson says Democracy Now! is always one of the most-cited programs.

"It's one of the absolute best independent news programs out there," he says, "and people have always appreciated us having it."

Goodman recently received the Right Livelihood Award, which has also been called the "alternative Nobel Prize" for her model of "trickle up journalism," and is a recipient of the first annual Park Center for Independent Media Izzy Award, along with many other awards.

Goodman's latest book, Standing Up to the Madness, is the third she has co-written with her brother, investigative journalist David Goodman. It chronicles people who weren't looking for trouble but fought back when trouble—from the Bush era hijacking of civil liberties—found them.

She is currently hosting her show from the road, hitting 70 cities to benefit local independent media. In Tucson, at least, she's not accepting a dime for her time or travel.

"The point of Democracy Now!" Goodman says, "is to take those (local) voices global and connect the dots of these precious national treasures—public media like Access Tucson and KXCI—and link them all over the country and the world. ... These are the places where you hear those who think outside the box."

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