Monday, August 17, 2009

Media Reform and Democracy Now

Bob Sheak

I am part of a media-reform group based in Athens, Meigs, and Belmont Counties called Athens Free Press. For us, media reform means increasing the range of options on important news and issues beyond the programming typically offered by the commercial media and what, with limited exceptions, we find on public radio and television.

For example, we want media that are independent of corporate funding. We want media that are willing to critically examine the policies of corporations that recklessly undermine the economy, dominate government with campaign contributions and lobbies, and advance their interests at the expense of the public and a sustainable environment. We want media that challenge government military adventures abroad. And we want media that give us an opportunity to hear from experts, activists from other countries as well as our own, and those from different walks of life who challenge the status quo. In the end, we hope for a media that will make us more informed and discerning citizens.

There is a profusion of alternative sources of in-depth analysis on the Internet, beyond the conventional media, but many residents of Southeast Ohio don’t have access to computers. They often do have a radio and/or television. With this in mind, our group has identified a program called Democracy Now that fits the bill. It is a daily, one-hour program, presently broadcast on nearly 800 community radio and public access TV stations, some PBS or NPR stations, as well as being beamed out over satellite television and accessible on its website,

The program’s hosts, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, are award-winning journalists and have written best-selling books. One of their mottos is “going to where the silence is.” A vivid example of this was their coverage of the lead-up to the Iraq War, when they regularly found experts who were not convinced that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or links to Al Qaeda. In recent months, among a plethora of featured stories, Democracy Now has had interviews with opponents of coal mining based on mountaintop removal, a roundtable on “no more nuclear war,” a debate on events in Honduras, interviews with GIs criticizing the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, an exclusive report and interviews on CIA infiltration of peace groups in the state of Washington, and a number of guests arguing for single-payer or strong public-option health care policies.

We are holding a fund-raiser for Democracy Now at the Case Nueva Cantina/Restaurant in Athens on Saturday, August 22, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The Bob Stewart Band will play, and be joined by special guest Zeke Hutchison. You can get additional information on Democracy Now at this event. The point is to support a flourishing alternative source of information and analysis, so that someday citizens in Southeast Ohio will have this option.