Amy Goodman Speaks (and is heard)

Kai -- December 9th, 2006

As finnegan advertised in the last post, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! spoke to a crowd of probably 150+ tonight at the Community Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg. If you didn’t know it was coming, I don’t know how – the advertising for the event was impressive. I heard about it from at least a dozen people, signs, posters, emails, and phone calls in the last few weeks.

I’m not a regular listener to Democracy Nows, which air 10pm weeknights on WEMC 91.7, but I’m very aware of the following of the program. I was especially interested to hear what Ms. Goodman was going to say and how much it would have to do with the developments in changing ownership of the WEMC station. While the introduction and welcoming did emphasize the importance of communicating to the future owners of WEMC that Democracy Now! is important, I’m pleased to say Ms. Goodman focused on much more important themes.

Aside from a few rounds of the crowd clapping in agreement, she spoke uninterrupted and eloquently about giving a voice to the silenced, reclaiming responsible journalism, exposing systemic hypocrisy, and sharing your voice in a democracy. She wove a tapestry of the real world with real life stories, showing how corporate media has put a veil on the world for the American populous. She spoke of fathers losing their minds after learning their sons had been killed fighting in Iraq, of Cindy Sheehan giving voices to hundreds of thousands, of our “leaders” vacationing and shopping as New Orleans being destroyed, of Rumsfeld buying the property of a former slave owner that had earned the term Mount Misery, of Rosa Parks being a trained activist in a time of rampant and merciless racism, of mothers letting putting their sons’ dead bodies on the display to awaken the world to the destruction of war and racism, of moderate Muslims preaching community being profiled and – worse – arrested, held, deported, and tortured, of the importance of starting a movement that advocates for America reestablishing what we believe are its ideals.

The crowd was tuned in, many people bought a book and stayed for the signing. It was refreshing to be part of such a large crowd that at least was willing to take the time to listen to a talk about these issues, let alone a crowd that likely appreciated her perspective so much. As much as it’s important to hear from other perspectives, sometimes is just as important to be around people who want the same type of changes you do. Young and old, tonight offered that opportunity.

Back to the ownership changes of the radio, I’m really not understanding what the big fuss is over JMU taking over WEMC’s administration as far as Democracy Now! is concerned (that’s an important qualifier). Wasn’t Democracy Now! on the chopping block last year when Amy Goodman came down, when WEMC ultimately put her back on at 10pm (rather than 5pm)? Democracy Now! is threatened at WEMC, too, people – and I would imagine WMRA’s management isn’t jumping at the bit to get Democracy Now! off the air. What am I missing?

By the way, I’m on WVPT’s Consider This on Sunday at 12:30pm (Channel 7) talking about OrangeBand. Finnegan did the taping. Watch out Harrisonburg, the hburgnews bloggers are teaming up to take over the airways!

-Kai

9 Responses to “Amy Goodman Speaks (and is heard)”

  1. finnegan says:

    Thanks for the post, Kai. I really wish I could have been there for this.

    In my mind, the fuss over JMU/WMRA taking over management of WEMC is not that it’s necessarily a bad thing (after all, I’ve supported WMRA during pledge drives over the last few years, and my alarm clock is tuned into MRA) I think it’s just the general idea of what is essentially one entity owning all three non-commercial stations in town (MRA, XJM, EMC). Also, I personally prefer jazz over classical music :)

    I think its possible that the change in management could be a good thing. I just hope they retain the things that I like about WEMC (BBC World News, Democracy Now, and the jazz show).

  2. davidtroyer says:

    Kai,

    Finnegan is correct in the major fuss being the idea of selling ourselves to Big Brother.

    I am a senior at the university, and for the most part the students are disinterested. I have heard and read a couple places that people do not understand why we arent “up in arms” at the idea of leasing the radio station.

    The simple fact is, the radio station isn’t ours. There is no student involvement other than a couple workstudy broadcasting jobs, but no student is involved with programming or otherwise. Having no such voice, and furthermore DN! being one of the only things that students listen to (and probably just listen to the podcast anyhow), it is hardly anything to get up in arms about.

    So basically the people concerned are mostly the WEMC listening community who afraid of having a WMRAJR. This is ridiculous considering WMRA covers all of WEMC’s listening area.

    If there is anything for students to be up in arms about, it is that we have no voice. The administration does a good job at giving us face time, but that is about the extent of it.

  3. Kai says:

    David & Finnegan,

    Yeah, I understand the conglomeration is an issue – I agree. I was commenting only on the fears the DN would be cut, which I believe aren’t necessarily valid.

    David:

    I guess the student involvement in MRA is low as well. Being the NPR affiliate, it needs a rather professional feel. Maybe EMU can look into a low power station like WXJM and have it truly be student-run. That’s probably logistically and financially impossible. But what about if EMU students worked with WXJM student management to see if a portion of their weekly schedule could be devoted to EMU-student programming. XJM could benefit from some new talk shows. It also might bring more EMU folks over to the WMRA station (XJM is broadcast from there).

    Now’s the time to look into that as they’ll be doing sign-ups for next semester shortly.

    Kai

  4. Josh says:

    I attended last night’s chat and was pleased with the message she had to share. Large parts of her talk downplayed the role of political affiliations and emphasized the need for bringing back humanity to journalism. She thinks Katrina was probably the first time that corporate media covered events from the perspective of the individuals involved. Journalism isn’t about promoting a political agenda, it’s about presenting all points of view. Throughout her talk she spoke of the major news pundits who know so little about so many things.

    Note: She mentioned a float in the Harrisonburg Christmas Parade that carried the names of all soldiers and Iraqi citizens who have lost their lives in the war. Obviously, this float wasn’t mentioned in the DNR parade coverage:

    http://www.dnronline.com/news_details.php?AID=7706&CHID=1

    If anyone saw this float, please consider adding a comment to the article describing the float and the crowd’s reaction.

    Amusing DNR bit from the talk: Amy Goodman started a new syndicated column this fall http://www.democracynow.org/weeklycolumn.shtml –she suggested that we ask our local newspapers to carry it… and the crowd laughed out loud!

    I’ve spoken to WMRA staff members on a number of occasions, always requesting that they carry more talk radio and less classical music. As of a year or two ago, they’d considered having two stations: one with more music, one with more talk. Here’s hoping the WEMC station leads to more NPR programs being broadcast in this area (like Science Friday! :) ).

  5. infolkus says:

    From the public meeting held in October, there were many concerns brought up about WMRA taking over WEMC. The common thread was that they didn’t want WEMC to lose it’s “soul”. That meant different things to different people – for some (probably the most vocal ones) it’s the alternative information source DN!; for others, it’s the religious programming; still others were more interested in the emphasis on international events.

    WEMC’s former manager Phil Easley spoke briefly, but summed it up well – that current WEMC programming is more about mission; WMRA’s management will be more concerned about running it as a business.

    So for DN! I supoose the question is: do you carry a news program that has a small, but very devoted following and be able to offer the community an alternative voice but also runs the risk of offending donors to the point that they stop supporting the station?

  6. finnegan says:

    Good discussion. Everyone is making good points here.

    So for DN! I suppose the question is: do you carry a news program that has a small, but very devoted following and be able to offer the community an alternative voice but also runs the risk of offending donors to the point that they stop supporting the station?

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. This is why DN listeners like myself are nervous/skeptical about the switch.

    As for the podcasting vs radio thing, I do listen primarily online, but I’d say a third of the time I do listen to it on WEMC.

  7. Kai says:

    yo finnegan: with all this talk about the station, you might want to add WEMC to your local media list ;)

  8. finnegan says:

    Done.

    And speaking of WMRA, here’s Martha Woodroof’s sound bites from the crowd at the Amy Goodman thing (featuring the smooth & silky voice of Kai).

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