WSJ: Pacifica becomes antiwar voice

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Mar 24 10:35:08 MST 2003

Wall Street Journal - March 24, 2004

Pacifica Radio Network Becomes Antiwar Voice


A few weeks ago, Amy Goodman played master of ceremonies at a peace
rally in Washington. Later that day, she attended a different antiwar
protest, involving many of the same people, this time doing interviews
for the show she hosts on Pacifica Radio -- and wound up getting
arrested outside the White House.

Her dual identity captures the unique role that Pacifica is playing in
the media's coverage of the war in Iraq.

The nonprofit five-station network, which provides programming for
dozens more outlets, is combining reportage and advocacy to provide what
its leaders say is a perspective missing from the mainstream news outlets.

"That's part of the mission, for social justice and peace," says Verna
Avery-Brown, Washington bureau chief of the Pacifica Radio network,
which is owned by the nonprofit Pacifica Foundation. "How often do you
see these views portrayed by the mainstream media?"

Pacifica , founded in 1949 by pacifists in Berkeley, Calif., has long
served as an outlet for social activism and antiwar messages. Despite
its relatively small listenership, its archives include decades of tapes
featuring high-profile figures including Malcolm X, Eleanor Roosevelt
and Allen Ginsberg. In recent years, Pacifica had been torn by internal
conflicts and financial problems.

The network subsequently reorganized, and its position as an outlet for
those opposed to war in Iraq may be boosting its profile. The network
announced its most successful fund-raising drive in memory, with more
than $4 million in listener contributions this past winter. Just after
the initial attack on Iraq, Pacifica went initially to round-the-clock
coverage of the war, stepping up its role as a touchstone for the
antiwar movement.

Pacifica executives say their programs provide a counterpoint to other
coverage. Indeed, Pacifica's approach stands out on the radio dial,
where the most popular talk-show hosts are typically conservative.

After one member of the Dixie Chicks made a remark critical of President
Bush, a number of U.S. country-music stations at least briefly stopped
playing the band's songs.

Glenn Beck, whose radio show is syndicated by Clear Channel
Communications Inc.'s Premiere Radio Networks, has hosted a series of
"Rallies for America" to show support for U.S. troops.

Pacifica shows have provided a showcase for antiwar protests and views,
including those of celebrities such as Susan Sarandon and Danny Glover.

The Pacifica Web site ( includes links to a "peace
resource" page and the slogan, "Pacifica is peace radio." The network
had a correspondent in Iraq until recently, interviewing civilians about
the possible hostilities. "They give the opportunity for voices of
dissent to be heard," says Jodie Evans, co-founder of the peace group
CodePink. When she recently had to put together an early-morning peace
demonstration in Los Angeles on short notice, the local Pacifica station
helped get the word out, she notes.

Her group helped pull together the rally in Washington March 8 at which
Pacifica host Amy Goodman spoke. Ms. Goodman, whose morning show is
called "Democracy Now!" has emerged as perhaps the most high-profile
personality on Pacifica's programs, as well as an in-demand speaker at
antiwar events. "Reporters have opinions, we have to be honest about
them," while providing fair and accurate coverage, she says. She adds,
"I am an antiwar reporter," or a "media activist."

Ms. Goodman dismisses many of the "embedded" reporters for other outlets
who are traveling with military units as "in bed" with the U.S.
government. "It is very difficult to distinguish the reporter from the
military unit they're with," she says. On a recent show, she called the
American advance on Iraq "unprovoked," and referred to an attack on a
bunker where Saddam Hussein might have been hiding out as an
"assassination attempt."

The reporting was broken up by strains of the chorus, "War ... what is
it good for?"


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