News show Democracy Now! has been around for a couple decades now. The program is most often heard/seen on public media outlets. But it was also quick to adopt podcasting as a new distribution method not long after the medium began. Democracy Now! host and reporter Amy Goodman was recently charged with a crime after reporting on a controversial situation in North Dakota:
…on September 3, when she was in North Dakota covering what she calls ‘the standoff at Standing Rock’: the months-long protests by thousands of Native Americans against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The $3.8 billion oil pipeline is slated to carry barrel after barrel of Bakken crude through sacred sites and burial grounds of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, and tribe members fear it could pollute the Missouri River, the source not only of their water but of millions of others’, should the pipe ever rupture.
Goodman was covering a protest of the pipeline construction when protestors clashed with contract security personnel on site. Goodman’s report included graphic descriptions of protestors being thrown to the ground and attacked by trained security dogs. Democracy Now!’s footage of the incident went viral online, racking up millions of views.
In the days that followed, Amy Goodman was charged with a crime in connection with her coverage of the protest:
…on September 8, Goodman received the news that Morton County, North Dakota, had issued a warrant for her arrest. The charge: riot, a misdemeanor punishable by jail time and a fine. (It should be noted that the original charge leveled against Goodman was not riot but criminal trespass, also a misdemeanor. However, just days days before Goodman was set to appear in court, the prosecutor, Ladd Erickson, switched up the charges because, he admitted in an email to Goodman’s lawyer, Tom Dickson, there were ‘legal issues with proving the notice of trespassing requirements in the statute.’)
Lead prosecutor Erickson has said he’s treating Goodman as a protestor, instead of a journalist, and that’s why he’s charging her with a crime. Goodman has agreed to turn herself in to North Dakota authorities to face the charges in court. A case like this could set a new precedent in terms of First Amendment rights in the United States. This case should be watched by everyone in the media, including podcasters.