“From New York – this – is Democracy Now!” With this iconic phrase, Amy Goodman opens each hour-long broadcast.
What is an independent, nonprofit, noncorporate, noncommercial global news program? How is it broadcast and funded? And why do I tune in daily?
Democracy Now! started in 1996 as a daily news program on public radio; in 2001, live television and online broadcasts were added to the mix. Viewing and listening to Democracy Now! are possible via public access multimedia stations, channels (radio, satellite, and cable television), and the Internet. Democracy Now! is entirely audience-supported – it does not accept funding from government agencies or corporations and is not supported by advertising, subscription, or license fees. This structure is not only exceptional within the world of corporate and commercial mass media but also within the public-broadcasting systems in the U.S. and German-speaking countries.
An independent media is indispensable to a functioning democracy. Only an independent media can engage factually and impartially with the pressing issues of the day. Democracy Now! meets this challenge in a manner that is quite unparalleled within the US or the international news media and thus fulfills the mandate inherent in its name.
This starts with what gets covered. Democracy Now! explores issues affecting people profoundly: the climate crisis, systemic racism, environmental justice, and women’s rights, just to mention a few. This is underscored by who does the talking. The guests, representing the authentic voices of those who are closest to making the story, run the gamut from scholars, investigative reporters, and politicians to members of grassroots movements, teachers, and artists. Amy Goodman, host since 1996, describes Democracy Now! and its genesis: “The whole idea was people speaking for themselves. The media is a huge kitchen table that stretches across the globe, that we all sit around and debate and discuss the most important issues of the day: war and peace, life and death, inequality, equality, racial economic justice, LGBTQ issues, the climate crisis. And of course, now, overall respect for science in dealing with the pandemic and issues of equity along the way.”
The opening 15 minutes of the news hour are dedicated to the headlines – the national and international stories making breaking news. Headlines are followed by the main part of the program in which one or more topical issues are discussed comprehensively. One of the co-hosts, Juan González or Nermeen Shaikh, usually join Amy Goodman for these in-depth segments. Guests are given ample time to lay out their stories during interviews. Both the headlines and the in-depth segments are interspersed with primary source video and sound clips. Occasionally, a debate between guests takes place within roundtables organized around more controversial topics. International guests are asked to comment on how U.S. domestic issues and foreign policy affect their nation and its citizens. Domestic guests are asked, in turn, to explain U.S. domestic issues to a global audience and to place them within a global context.
Non-English-speaking guests are interpreted on air, and transcripts of all segments as well as links to guests’ publications without paywalls are available online and daily. Website exclusives, supplementary interviews that have extended beyond the hour-long program, are available online only. The 30-second segment breaks are filled with contemporary and noncontemporary international music and are often employed strikingly as ironic political commentary. Before the pandemic, all the hosts and often the guests met in the New York studio. Since March 2021, only Amy Goodman is present in the studio, and the participation of the co-hosts and all the guests is made possible by livestreaming from remote locations around the world.
Now you know why I tune in daily for my U.S. and global news. You may have thought corporate-sponsored cable news networks (not naming names here) were the only game in town, but there’s an alternative to the drone of mass media news: Democracy Now! I hope you will feel inclined to add their ‘Daily Digest’ to your inbox.
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