Richard Holbrooke, the American ambassador to the U.N. and Bill Clinton’s special envoy to Yugoslavia, was giving the keynote address at the Overseas Press Club event. Amy and Jeremy tried to take the opportunity to ask him challenging questions about America’s aggressive behavior in the run up to war.
But when Scahill stood up after Holbrooke’s speech and tried to ask the question, he was shouted down by all the “respectable” journalists from the networks and the major news dailies. Scahill specifically asked Tom Brokaw and Leslie Stahl to support him.
Brokaw instead stood up in between Holbrooke and Scahill, told Jeremy to sit down, then went on to have dinner with Holbrooke at his table. The New York Post the next day wrote: “BROKAW SHUSHES KOSOVO CRANK.”
I tell this story because it’s a key to understanding the difference between Amy Goodman and someone like Tom Brokaw, whom I’m sure Mr. Erickson would describe as a journalist no matter where he chose to take pictures.
The journalism business is designed to make telling the truth difficult. There are a lot of obstacles.
In return for access to high-ranking politicians, the government typically charges a little bit of your honesty.
In return for the large sums of money advertisers pay to major network news operations, you have to give up a little bit more.
Then there’s audience. In order to secure a big one, you sometimes need to give up still a little bit more of your soul.
The easiest route to a big audience is a commercial network operation that piggybacks on the popularity of its other programming, like sports and sitcoms. Go that route and you are beholden not only to your own advertisers, but those supporting those other programs.
The other route to a big audience is designing a program that tells people what they want to hear, which usually ends in not challenging your viewers/readers at crucial moments.
So if your primary interest is in doing this job correctly, you usually have to give up the access, the money and the audience.
You can go without the first two and still do a good enough job. But to have an impact, you have to reach people. So you have to find another way.
Amy Goodman found another way. She insisted on her complete independence throughout her entire career.
Moreover she was never satisfied with merely doing the job and not having an impact. She essentially built her own large television news operation, and she did it precisely for moments like the Standing Rock protest.
The whole point of fighting to be independent for your whole career, and building your own news network instead of working at someone else’s existing, corporate-funded one, is so that you can cover something like the Dakota Pipeline story whenever you feel like it.
So not only was Amy Goodman doing journalism when she was at those protests, the only kind of journalist who would even be there almost by definition would have to be one like Amy Goodman.