Amy Goodman looks back on 20 years of Democracy Now!

Last fall, veteran journalist Amy Goodman was covering the demonstration opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline, the largest Native American demonstration in decades, when things took a turn.

Goodman was charged with criminal trespassing. Lacking the evidence to prove trespassing, the prosecution pivoted to a rioting charge, which was thrown out by a North Dakota judge.

Just this week, the Society of Professional Journalists awarded Goodman and her team of journalists at Democracy Now!, an independent television and radio news outfit, the 2016 Sigma Delta Chi Award for Television Breaking News Coverage for their reports from the demonstration.

“We were up against the net works and cable stations with their drones and broadcast trucks, and Democracy Now! wins the award for covering the North Dakota pipeline access protests,” Goodman said.

Goodman comes to Schuler Books & Music’s Eastwood location Sunday to talk about her new book, “Democracy Now!: Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America.” Much of the success of Democracy Now!, she said, is due to its journalistic style, which puts reporters on the ground with the people.

The Dakota Access Pipeline demonstration was not the first time Goodman was arrested for trying to do her job. At the 2008 Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, Minn., she and other members of her crew were arrested while covering related protests.

Charges were dropped in that case as well, but Democracy Now! sued and was awarded $100,000.

Goodman said journalists have to protest these types of intimidation.

“It is a threat to journalism,” she said.

“Media is not the enemy.”

She said coverage of the Dakota Access Pipeline demonstration showed people across the country what was happening in a visceral way.

“The video of police dogs set loose on protesters resulted in a picture showing a police dog with a bloody mouth,” Goodman said. “When it was posted online, it got 14 million downloads. This shows the hunger for independent voices.”

She also was astounded that at presidential debate following the confrontation, not one of the moderators asked a question about climate change.

Democracy Now!, which is funded entirely by donations, launched over 20 years ago. Initially an internet-only operation, its programming is now carried on over 1,400 television, radio and internet outlets.

Democracy Now! has aired thousands of daily, one-hour news episodes, and it is noted for its in-depth coverage of events. For both last weekend’s People’s Climate March and the previous weekend’s March for Science, Democracy Now! aired five hours of continuous coverage from Washington.

“The election of President Trump has made it so clear why we need an independent media,” Goodman said. “On the hottest April 29th on record in Washington, D.C., the EPA scrubbed Climate Change from its website.

“The resistance is amazing,” she added. “This is not a fringe movement. Their voices need to be heard.

Goodman said the internet is a crucial tool in planning protest rallies and learning about the issues.

“That’s why the internet has to be open and free,” she said. “We can’t let telecom and cable privatize the internet, which was created with public money. Net neutrality is critical.”

Blurbs for the book refer to it as a compilation of the media outlet’s “greatest hits.” It provides overviews of some of the biggest issues facing the U.S. and how they are covered by Democracy Now!, with chapters like “Climate Justice,” “When the Killer Wears a Badge” and “Undocumented and Unafraid.”

Goodman believes that an independent press is essential to hold politicians and powerful business entities in check.

“You never achieve democracy,” she said. “You have to fight for it every day.”

Amy Goodman Author talk and book signing 2-4 p.m. Sunday, May 7 FREE (RSVP required) Schuler Books & Music (Eastwood Towne Center location) 2820 Towne Center Blvd., Lansing (517)316-7495,