Dan Lawton : Journalist

Pacifica Radio Turns 60; I Start A New Blog

I’ve been blogging for a while now, but almost everything I’ve written previously has been too strange to permanently affix with my name.  However, if you’d like to read an article about Napoleon and the Mayor of Portland’s indiscretions, you can check out some of my previous articles at politicsandfunk.com

I think this blog is intended to be some sort of coming out party for my transition from a copywriting scab to a professional journalist– that’s why I have this header in which I look respectable– but whenever I think about inhibiting my writing to tailor to a certain audience I just get bored.

I don’t think Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman ever gets bored.  Actually, I’m sure she gets does get bored at some junctures of her life, but I never really get bored of watching Democracy Now.  This evening they aired a documentary on Pacifica Radio and its 60th birthday.

Founded in 1949 by peace activist Lou Hill, Pacifica is the oldest independent radio network in the US. It was also the first purely listener-supported radio station in the country, a framework that kept it out of the clutches of corporate media.

It was founded in Berkley in 1949 at an anarchist meeting and its early lifeblood was the far-left San Francisco intellectual scene, but it appeared to have a commitment not to ideology but to freedom of speech and reporting the news.   According to Goodman’s column, the organization was in desperate economic straits in its infancy but consistently found support from its listeners.

It gained much of its influence while airing live broadcasts of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) and was especially prominent in the coverage of the student riot following a HUAC meeting in Berkley in 1960.  It hosted debates between James Baldwin and Malcolm X on non-violent protests, banter from leading intellectuals during the Cold War about the possibility of nuclear apocalypse and the poetry of Langston Hughes, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti and more.

More importantly, it consistently aired journalism of criticism and dissent.  People valued that, and they pulled out their pocket books and contributed regardless of the fact that no one was compelling them to do so.

That seems like pretty honest journalism. Sometimes I wonder if it’s possible that we could ever return to a model so pure.



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