Amy Goodman is co-host of Democracy Now!, a weekday newscast that can be heard on more than 225 radio stations in the U.S. and Canada and on the shortwave station Radio for Peace International. The show also produces a television version of each newscast, which can be seen and heard on many cable TV systems -- mostly on public access channels and on the subscriber satellite television systems DIRECTV, Free Speech TV, and DISH network.
Amy Goodman was born in 1957 in Bayshore, New York. "Goodman grew up a movement child, the daughter of radical parents," wrote reporter Michael Powell in the March 10, 2003 Washington Post. "Her father, a physician, was featured in a poster for nuclear disarmament, the image of a mushroom cloud in his stethoscope. (Going further back, she is descended from prominent Hasidic rabbis, although she counts herself a secular Jew.)"
After graduating from Harvard-Radcliffe in 1984 with a degree in anthropology, Goodman found work at WBAI, the New York City station owned by the Pacifica Radio network.
Also in 1984, her brother David Goodman traveled to South Africa as an activist. Out of his experiences there he co-authored the book Fault Lines: Journeys into the New South Africa. He is a "Contributing Writer" at Mother Jones magazine, and his freelance articles have also appeared in the Washington Post and The Nation. He is co-author with sister Amy of the 2004 book, The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers, and the Media that Love Them.
In 1985 Amy Goodman became news director of WBAI, a position she would hold for a decade. In 1990-91 she and New Left Review editor Allan Nairn traveled to East Timor, where they witnessed Indonesian troops gun down 270 people. Their documentary, "Massacre: The Story of East Timor," won the Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Silver Baton award. Goodman's approach to journalism, she said in a prize acceptance speech, is: "Go where the silence is and say something."
In 1996 along with veteran Pacifica broadcaster Larry Bensky, Juan Gonzalez, New Times columnist Salim Muwakkie, and Julie Drizin, Goodman founded the news program Democracy Now! Its aim was to provide "perspectives rarely heard in the U.S. corporate-sponsored media"; i.e., the views of radical and foreign journalists, left activists, labor activists, and ideological foes of capitalism.
The popular show soon began airing not only in New York City but also on the other Pacifica-owned stations in Berkeley, Los Angeles, Houston and Washington, DC.
In 1998 Goodman and producer Jeremy Scahill went to Nigeria to film their anti-corporate documentary Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria's Oil Dictatorship, which won the George Polk Award.
The following year Goodman trekked to Peru to interview radical activist Lori Berenson, whose collaboration with Peruvian terrorists landed her in jail.
In November 1999 Goodman covered the "Battle in Seattle" as radical demonstrators smashed store windows and caused mayhem as part of a protest against the World Trade Organization and multinational business. Goodman, as usual, reflected the leftwing views of the radicals.
Goodman is a hardcore radical who detests both of the established major U.S. political parties. She perceives the politicians of both parties, as well as the dominant liberal media, as corrupted and controlled by a corporate ruling class, and from this perspective attacks them all (albeit from a place on the political spectrum much closer to leftwing Democrats than to Republicans). Because she commonly condemns the allegedly hidden capitalist conspiracies that rule Americans, Goodman is a very attractive figure to the far left.
After being interviewed for 30 minutes on Election Day 2000 by Goodman and WBAI's Gonzalo Aburto, President Bill Clinton called Goodman "hostile," "combative," and at times "disrespectful." She had, among other things, pressed Mr. Clinton to pardon a jailed radical.
Key figures around Goodman such as radio producer Mike Burke and television producers Ana Nogueira, Elizabeth Press, and John Hamilton all have backgrounds in Indymedia, an Internet movement steeped in the views of Goodman's close friend and ideological comrade, professor Noam Chomsky. Nogueira has written for the Chomskyite Z Magazine.
Goodman is also a close friend of Professor Norman Finkelstein, while Professor Cornel West calls himself a great admirer of Goodman.
"Amy Goodman is an extraordinary journalist, in the grand American tradition of Lincoln Steffens, Heywood Broun, I.F. Stone," said Howard Zinn, a Marxist historian and frequent guest on Democracy Now! "Her contribution to our culture is unique, bringing information and ideas to her listeners which they cannot see in the major media."
In 2000, Democracy Now! departed from WBAI's facilities amid internal battles over control of Pacifica Radio. It has broadcast ever since from studios in a converted firehouse renamed the Downtown Community Television Center (DCTV) in New York City's Chinatown.
In June 2002, Democracy Now! became a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization independent of Pacifica Radio. It continues to air on Pacifica-owned and affiliated stations. It is satellite-uplinked via the Pacifica Satellite System, but also via the taxpayer-subsidized Public Radio Satellite System (PRSS). Stations can also receive the program over the Internet as broadcast-quality MP3 computer files.
"Democracy Now! is funded entirely through contributions from listeners, viewers, and foundations," says its website. "We do not accept advertisers, donations from corporations, or donations from governments. This allows us to maintain our independence."
But serious questions have arisen about how Democracy Now! -- which developed with the resources of Pacifica Radio and grants from the Carnegie Corporation, the Ford Foundation, J.M. Kaplan Fund and others -- suddenly in 2002 became independent and the effective property of Amy Goodman without any recompense to Pacifica. This transfer included valuable assets such as trademarks, ownership of years of archived programs and interviews, affiliate station access and more.
From 2002-2007, Goodman was paid $1 million per year, according to Pacifica Treasurer Jabari Zakiya. She also has been able to use her tax-exempt radio program and taxpayer-subsidized public radio satellite transponder to promote what her for-profit book and other lucrative activities.
In a 2005 interview, Goodman linked the Abu Ghraib (Iraq) prison scandal with what she views as the deeply embedded racism of American culture generally. She said: “I think that the whole Abu Ghraib prison scandal began long before the first low-level soldier laid a finger on the Iraqi prisoners. I think it started here at home with an administration that demonizes whole populations. African Americans have always been targeted, and now Arab Americans, Muslims, people of South Asian descent are being targeted as well.”
Goodman commonly speaks at anti-U.S. and anti-Israel rallies.