February 14, 2011

Amy Goodman to receive honorary doctorate

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale will honor acclaimed progressive broadcast journalist and investigative reporter Amy Goodman with an honorary Doctorate of Humane Discourse during the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts’ commencement ceremony in May.

The Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees’ Executive Committee approved the honor today (Feb. 14). The full board will be asked to ratify the action at its regular meeting in April.

The Board of Trustees’ agenda item states that Goodman, host and executive producer of “Democracy Now!” provides a way for audiences to be exposed to news stories “glossed over or omitted entirely by mainstream media as well as to a variety of voices that often have no access to the public sphere.” Goodman’s program airs on more than 900 television and radio stations in North America, and Time Magazine named “Democracy Now!” its “Pick of Podcasts,” along with NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

In a nomination letter, Deborah Tudor, associate dean, and Dafna Lemish, chair of the Department of Radio-Television, both in the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts, wrote that Goodman was the first journalist to earn the “Right Livelihood Award,” often called the “Alternative Nobel Prize,” in 2008. The award cites Goodman’s work in “developing an innovative model of truly independent grassroots political journalism that brings to millions of people the alternative voices that are often excluded by the mainstream media.”

While Goodman’s work is “broadly international in nature,” it engages audiences in North America and across the world with issues pertaining to “global citizenship,” the letter states.

“In this way she challenges and broadens the range of points of view on social and political issues, locally and globally, contributing to the development of an informed electorate and engaged citizenship,” the letter states.

Goodman “has proven to be a longstanding media voice in our country who is a household name and recognized by millions of people,” said Gary P. Kolb, dean of the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts.

“She is a highly respected journalist,” Kolb said. “A lot of people see Amy Goodman as a liberal voice in the media, but they understand that she does very balanced and fair reporting on the issues. She has a lot of respect from people around the country. She is seen as a very hard-nosed reporter with a point of view, but also an attention to fairness and balance in the way that she covers issues.”

Goodman is also a groundbreaking journalist. Goodman and her crew broke the story of the massacre of Timorese civilians in East Timor by Indonesian troops during a pro-independence rally in November 1991, long before any media in the United States covered the attack, and also reported the U.S. was sending weapons and military assistance to Indonesia, according to Lemish and Tudor’s nomination.

In 15 years, DemocracyNow! has grown from broadcasting on six stations to more than 900 stations.

Honoring Goodman “demonstrates the global nature of our University, our commitment to diversity and social justice, our concern for environmental issues, and our commitment to excellence in all fields,” the nomination letter states.

The letter also notes the honor will “speak directly to the mission of the thriving College of Mass Communication and Media Arts” which is home to WSIU-TV and WSIU radio, the River Region Evening Edition, “alt.news 26:46,”and the Daily Egyptian student newspaper.

Goodman’s numerous awards include the 2007 James Aronson Award for Social Justice Reporting, the American Women in Radio Television Gracie Award, the Paley Center for Media’s “She Made It” Award, and the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship. Other awards include the 1998 Golden Reel Award for the Best National Documentary for “Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship,” and the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for “Massacre: The Story of East Timor.”

Goodman earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University. In addition to her broadcast work, Goodman is a syndicated columnist and the author of four best-selling books, including the 2010 New York Times bestseller, “Breaking the Sound Barrier.” She is also the author of the 2008 bestseller, “Standing up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times.” The book “details the capabilities of ordinary citizens to exact change,” the nomination letter states.