Though both Goodman and her show have earned their share of detractors, Democracy Now! is now popular enough that Goodman doesn't even have time to take full notice of her naysayers, let alone be bothered by them. "I actually experience just the opposite now," she says from her New York City studio. "The response has been so unbelievable that I'm struggling just to keep up." Two years ago, the show aired on twenty radio stations; that number has since climbed to more than a hundred. Not that she's complaining. "It's been very exciting that people are hungry for an alternative media."
Until we spoke with her, Goodman didn't know that the last time she was in town, controversy followed quickly in her footsteps. The morning of her February 2002 appearance, when listeners tuned in to hear Democracy Now! on KKFI 90.1, they instead heard three of the radio station's board members trying to convince the public not to attend the event, calling advocates for the Friends of Community Radio (the group that had organized her visit and also had begun challenging the board's legitimacy) "terrorists." Remember, it was early 2002; everyone bad was a terrorist, and all things bad were forms of terrorism. The word hung in the air like the odor of sweaty towels in a gym. The station took Democracy Now! off the air for about a week.
The controversy surrounding the show's role on 90.1 isn't entirely over. A few months ago, Democracy Now! was moved from the 9 a.m. slot to an off-peak 10 p.m. airtime, which has some area folks fuming.
But Goodman isn't in town to talk about tensions at 90.1; she's here to deliver her lecture "Independent Media in a Time of War," which was also captured in a recent documentary. And she doesn't think of her audience as being specifically liberal.
"I find that right now, these political labels are breaking down, that conservatives and liberals are no longer the issue, that people across the spectrum are disturbed by a surveillant society," she says.
Goodman grills lefty interview subjects such as Bill Clinton (who thought he was calling in just to endorse Al Gore in the 2000 election) just as hard as she questions their conservative counterparts. It doesn't matter whether you agree with her -- even we don't always agree with her. What matters is that she thinks for herself, coming up with a unique line of questioning.
With the media among her recurring targets, is Goodman -- herself a member of the media -- walking a dangerously fine line? "It's a very natural position to be in," she says, "because as a journalist, I feel strongly that the media should be holding accountable those who are in power, that we should be the exception to the rulers."