There’s also the Amy Goodman Effect to consider. Goodman, the host of the independent radio and TV program Democracy Now!, was arrested on September 1, after trying to reach two of her producers — Nicole Salazar and Sharif Abdel Kouddous — who’d been arrested and injured while covering a clash between police and protesters. Goodman’s arrest in particular quickly became a cause célèbre on the left, thanks largely to an arrest video that was posted on democracynow.org and became YouTube’s most-watched video on September 1 and 2.
In retrospect, though, Goodman’s status as the RNC’s designated media martyr may actually have deterred further coverage. “Amy Goodman and her colleagues aren’t considered part of the fraternity,” notes Eric Alterman, the Nation media critic and author of What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News. “They’re actually enormously resented by many journalists, and with good reason: they treat the mainstream media as if it’s part of a corporate conspiracy to keep people from knowing the truth. There’s not the sense of affinity there. They’re viewed more as activists than as journalists in the minds of many.”
In addition, some observers question the wisdom of Goodman’s actions in St. Paul. The day after her arrest, Goodman told the Phoenix that she’d been arrested without warning after attempting to get to Salazar and Kouddous. But the video of her arrest is more ambiguous. Goodman approaches a cop in full riot gear and tries to explain her intent. He tells her three times, quickly, to go back to the sidewalk. When she doesn’t, he attempts to push her toward the sidewalk; as he does, she protests that she’s got full convention credentials. He keeps pushing; she keeps protesting; then he tells his colleagues to arrest her.
Did Goodman go too far? Lucy Dalglish — the executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which maintained a legal hotline for detained journalists during the RNC — seems to think so. “She went up there and got in the cop’s face,” says Dalglish. “I’m not surprised she was arrested.” (Goodman and her producers no longer face charges.)
Add it all up, then, and the mainstream media’s lack of interest may not be as surprising as it initially seems. But here’s the problem: because this story never really took off, a large segment of the public — and even the press — seems not to realize just how wide-ranging the RNC’s crackdown on journalists was.
Yes, the Democracy Now! staffers were arrested, along with others who might stretch traditional notions of what journalists are. (A Minnesota Independent list includes two people from Seattle’s Pepperspray Productions — your source for video “from the front lines of the global battle against the corporate state” — and three from New York’s Glass Bead Collective, which has worked with Billionaires for Bush and aims to “re-contextualize culture and the world in which we find ourselves today.”) But plenty of mainstream journalists ran into trouble, too.