Amy Goodman, host of "Democracy Now!", told a crowd of about 300 people at Ashland's Southern Oregon University Sunday night that print and TV media have failed to provide balanced and contextual coverage of the most critical issues facing Americans, including health care reform and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Her speech was part of a North American tour of 30 cities to help promote her new book, "Breaking the Sound Barrier" and raised funds for Medford-based Southern Oregon Public Television and Ashland-based KSKQ 94.9, a low-power FM station.
Goodman was scheduled to be in Medford early today for a live broadcast of her independent national daily news program from Southern Oregon Public Television's headquarters in downtown. The show is broadcast on more than 800 TV and radio stations worldwide.
Goodman said the recent illness and death of her mother from cancer gave her a firsthand account of the problems in the health care system. Goodman's book is dedicated to her mother, Dorrie Goodman.
The book is a collection of Goodman's columns, which also are printed regularly in the Ashland Daily Tidings.
By lacking universal health care, "we are an exception in this country in the entire industrial world," Goodman said. "It's not Britain or Canada that have an unusual system."
She said when her mother was offered a private room, Dorrie called out from her bed in intensive care, a place where most of the patients were unconscious or incapable of speaking, that she didn't want the room unless it was covered by Medicare.
"Forty-five thousand people die in a year, and terrorism isn't the culprit," Goodman said. "It's a lack of health care."
Meanwhile, she said the media have failed to adequately highlight the absence of a public option in the health care reform debate.
She said when the nation was poised to go to war in Iraq, there were only three out of 400 commentators in TV news programs and newspapers who were anti-war activists, according to a count by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.
"Someone asked me what I thought about the mainstream media," Goodman quipped. "I said I thought it was a good idea."
Her speech received a standing ovation in SOU's Music Recital Hall.
She signed copies of her books after the talk.
Ashland resident Anne Novina said she likes the fact that Goodman gives her guests time to speak and doesn't overrun them like many of the cable news networks.
"Her viewpoint is mine," Novina said. "I believe in what she says, and I wish voices like hers could be louder to be able to compete with voices like Rush Limbaugh."
Ashland resident Nancy Bloom said Goodman's speech resonated with her feelings about the media's shortcomings.
"It's really hard to penetrate and get a more nuanced view," Bloom said. "I've seen repeated slogans on the networks. I would like a more in-depth, long-range look at things."
The yearning for more facts and context in news reporting apparently spans both ends of the political spectrum.
Jeri Karcey, a Republican from Ashland who turned out for a talk Saturday by state Rep. Sal Esquivel about tax measures on the Oregon ballot Jan. 26, said the media provide more pundit opinions than it does facts.
"It's never what they're saying that is the problem," Karcey said. "It's what they're not saying. That's where the lack of balance comes in. It's distortion by omission."
Karcey said she watches Fox News because it appeals to her conservative views.
"That doesn't mean I don't watch or read other news because I always want to keep (Fox) in check," she said. "I end up watching several different sources because you can't rely on any one."
Reach reporter Paris Achen at 776-4459 or firstname.lastname@example.org.