Amy Goodman announcing the dismissal of charges against her outside the Morton County Courthouse in Mandan, North Dakota (Democracy Now!, 10/17/16).
North Dakota District Judge John Grinsteiner stood up for the First Amendment by dismissing “riot” charges against Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!, 10/17/16). That’s more than you can say for most of Goodman’s corporate media colleagues.
After Goodman reported on the use of pepper spray and attack dogs against Native American demonstrators opposing the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (Democracy Now!, 9/4/16), North Dakota State’s Attorney Ladd Erickson charged her with criminal trespassing. Realizing that he couldn’t make that charge stick, he sought to charge her instead with participation in a “riot”—based on Erickson’s contention that Goodman “was not acting as a journalist” because “everything she reported on was from the position of justifying the protest actions” (FAIR.org, 10/15/16).
Few corporate media journalists took note of a fellow reporter being charged with trespass for doing her job (FAIR.0rg, 9/15/16). When the prosecutor upped the ante by trying to build a criminal charge based on his perception of a reporter’s point of view, this still did not provoke much attention—let alone outcry—from outlets whose lucrative commercial enterprises are dependent on the protection of the First Amendment.
A handful of journalists at commercial outlets did weigh in to defend Goodman. Will Bunch, columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News (Philly.com, 10/16/16), wrote that “the First Amendment was created to prevent exactly this: the jailing of a writer for his or her political point of view.” The LA Times‘ Michael Hiltzik (10/17/16) called out the charges as “an attempt to quash legitimate news reporting.” Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone (10/13/16) noted the odd fact that Erickson is an avowed fan of Taibbi’s work—but nonetheless urged him to stop prosecuting Goodman, saying she is “as close to the ideal of what it means to be a journalist as one can get in this business.”
That’s about it for journalists in the corridors of corporate media who defended Democracy Now!‘s reporter. A few others took note of the threat she was under; AP‘s James MacPherson and Blake Nicholson wrote a piece that was picked up by outlets like the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Idaho Statesman, Fresno Bee and Arizona Daily Star. Public Radio International‘s The Takeaway (10/17/16) ran a 12-minute interview with Goodman.