Democracy Now! is an independent news program that is hosted by its moderators Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman. It is considered as one of the largest media, which broadcasts in college radios stations, Pacifica, PBS, satellite television, on the internet, and on public access. Most of the reports aired or reported on Democracy Now! are rarely heard on other corporate-sponsored media. Democracy Now! started broadcasting in 19th Feb 1996 during the US elections. It was the first broadcast to show the daily happenings of the US elections. Due to public demand, Democracy Now! continued broadcasting even after the president was chosen. In 2000, Democracy Now! launched an unprecedented multi-medium project that was independent and non-profit making. Goodman and Gonzalez were not accepting any advertisement or sponsorship of their programs. All money came from public charities (History & Highlights).
After September 11, 2001, Democracy Now! started broadcasting every weekday. It remains the only public media that is non-profit oriented and airs simultaneously on television, the Internet, radio and satellite. Some of the stories that have been featured on Democracy Now! include the prison break and immigrants’ view on immigration legislations. These two stories among others have not been considered in other networks for the reason they are contradictive. This paper discusses the interviews of Kinetik Justice, the co-founder of National Prison Strike, and the story of undocumented immigrants, specifically the plight of Elvira Arellano; the history behind the stories and the reason they were not aired on other media.
Throughout 2006, the news about the immigration reforms was on the agenda in most of the media. Journalists were expectantly waiting for President Bush administration to give a press briefing about the proposed overhaul of the immigration law. Congressional leaders on both side of debate were interviewed about their position on the upcoming changes. Journalist went even further interviewing the business community. They would have been affected by the law since they relied on the immigrants’ labor inn their agriculture, food and services industries. They were asked about their position under the debate (Howley).
However, the way the corporate media told the story about undocumented immigrants became an exception. The “illegal aliens” as labeled by most media were not asked on their position on the pending legislation that would affect them directly. Then, thousands of immigrants began claiming their rights across the streets of the US that the media gave them the air play to some extent. It is only Democracy Now! that covered the immigration policy debate in a comprehensive manner; they featured the voices of the workers and immigrants asking about their perspectives and experience under the debate (Howley).
In one particular scene, Democracy Now! focused exclusively on Elvira Arellano’s plight. She defied the deportation order that would have separated her from her son. Her son was born in the US meaning that he deserved to be a citizen of the USA. Elvira Arellano had to hide and take refuge in Methodist Church in Chicago where Democracy Now! followed up her story a few weeks later (History & Highlights).
The National Prison Strike
A grass-root organization was established to protect prisoners’ rights. The movement was started in May 2016 in Atmore, Alabama. The organizer of the movement Kinetik Justice talked to Democracy Now! where he reiterated that strike is the only method of challenging mass imprisonment. Kinetic and his friends arranged in a 10 day strike on May 1 (International Workers’ Day) where they refused to engage in any work in the prison. Kinetik and Melvin Ray founded a website with a downloadable book that reports the inhumane and unconstitutional conditions the prisoners survive in (Nationwide Prison Strike Launches in 24 States and 40 Facilities over Conditions & Forced Labor).
The organization of the May Day strike has grown from Alabama local event into a national movement. By 9th September at least 24 states were participating in the strike. The prisoners started protesting poor healthcare, overcrowding, long-term isolation, violent attacks, and slave labor. The prison strike later moved from prisons only to other organizations such as The Ordinary People Society (T.O.P.S) founded by Pastor Kenneth Glasgow of Alabama who was a former prisoner.
Although the news of the national prison strike was popular on other media, only Democracy Now! was in touch with the co-founder of the movement Kinetik Justice. Regularly, Democracy Now! communicated with Kinetik about the situation in the prison and further plans of the movement. In one interview, few weeks after the strike started, Democracy Now! talked to Kinetik who was being held in prison under tight security after creating the strike movement. At this interview, Kinetik told Democracy Now! that for the few weeks that they had been in touch with Democracy Now! the administration had not changed its policy. He said that the administration has no regard for human life. In addition, he noted that even the guards had realized that they were used by the administration and were terrified about the violence they had created in the prison. Other media were blocked from receiving any information from the prisoner despite the fact that every 40 out of 50 prisons in the US were involved in the strike (Solidarity from Solitary: The National Prison Strike).
Why Particular Story Has not Made the Corporate News Circuit
In May 2016, the US was experiencing the largest historical prison strike but only a few Americans new about it. This is because the main stream media did not give the issue the airtime. One week after the strike, the New York Times, ABS News, CNN, Fox News, Washington Post and NPR had not covered the news. Probably, they just ignored the news or they did not want to bring tension in the American population. If they had given the news a lot of airplay, they would motivate more prisoners to join the movement.
Some of the mainstream media in America have government as the shareholders. If such media would have given the undocumented immigrants airplay, they would have opposed the wish of their shareholders that may include the government. For this reason they have not interviewed the immigrants because they are legally responsible to their shareholders.
The Democracy Now! was founded in 1966 by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez to air the news of presidential elections in the USA. They were giving daily coverage of the election that made them popular. Due to public demand, they continued to air social news under Pacifica broadcast. Later in 2000, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez become independent and non-profit organization. They do not accept any advertisement or payment in order to air or report news. They operate from donations from the public. Currently, they air simultaneously on television, the Internet, radio and satellite. Most of the stories such as interviews of Kinetik Justice, the co-founder of National Prison Strike, and the story of undocumented immigrants, specifically the plight of Elvira Arellano, may not have been featured in other networks.
In the Immigration Reforms, most of immigrants were not given airtime by other media to air their views, positions or perspectives under the debate. Some stories like that of Elvira Arellano who was given a deportation order was not aired in corporate media. On the issues of the National Prison Strike, only a few people knew about the events because even weeks after the strike, the corporate media ignored airing the news. Democracy now! managed even to communicate with co-founders of the movement. Some of the reasons that make corporate media not report some news is because they act according to the wills of their shareholders (who might be the government), and some news are better not to be aired for national safety.