Democracy Now: A Relief From Corporate News B.S.
By Thomas Boothe and Danielle Follett
How one of the country’s most fiercely independent news programs is surviving — and thriving — in the Republican-controlled heartland.
A small group of activists in the rural northeastern corner of Tennessee in the United States persuaded their local public radio station, WETS, to start broadcasting the progressive news-hour Democracy Now two years ago. This pocket of Appalachia would seem to be unwelcoming territory for such an endeavor since the economically depressed farming and mining region votes overwhelmingly Republican — by as much as 75 percent in the last presidential election — and is, according to Joseph Fitsanakis, organizer of Democracy Now Tri-Cities (DNTC), “the kind of place where 30 years ago you couldn’t really do anything politically unless you were a Klan member.”
And there was an immediate response; some donors to the mostly listener-supported radio station, which is a partnership between East Tennessee State University and the listeners, warned that continued donations would depend on Democracy Now being taken off the air. It could have been much worse; Fitsanakis points out that in this part of the country, political activism has sometimes been met with personal attacks, including bullets through windows and dog poisonings. “People that got involved in organizing mining, the unionists, have a lot of that kind of story to tell you.”