MIDDLETOWN — Wesleyan University’s community radio station launched its spring pledge drive this week with an event featuring an award-winning independent journalist.
About 150 people gathered Monday to hear Amy Goodman, host of “Democracy Now,” discuss the show, which has been on the air for two decades.
Wesleyan was the second stop for Goodman, who’s on a more-than-30-stop speaking tour with her latest book, “Democracy Now: 20 Years Covering the Movements Changing America,” co-authored by Denis Moynihan.
The show airs weekdays at noon on WESU, which is one of the oldest college stations in the country. WESU has been broadcasting since 1939, currently at 88.1 FM and online at www.wesufm.org.
The pledge drive, one of two held annually, kicked off with a record fair on Saturday and continued with Goodman’s speaking engagement.
Ben Michael, general manager of WESU, said the event previewed the kinds of content WESU broadcasts, and helped build momentum for the spring pledge drive.
The radio station’s goal is to raise $20,000.
“Of course we’d love to grow that,” Michael said, “and we have over the years, grown it tremendously, but it’s a gradual thing.”
WESU has three paid staff members and a crew of 150 volunteers, including students, community members and Wesleyan faculty and staff.
WESU broadcasts a wide range of evening and weekend music programming and public affairs programs produced by NPR, Pacifica and independently in the daytime.
“We’ve become a stalwart of progressive public affairs programming for the last 15 years,” Michael said.
Students also produce their own public affairs shows that cover politics, entertainment news, and even an anarchist activist program called “Horizontal Power Hour.”
“People are looking for public affairs (programming) that provides contrast and perspective to what we get bombarded with on a daily basis through the major media outlets,” he said.
Students often go on to careers in the media, Michael said, creating a “legacy of making a difference in the world.”
Goodman, who entered Beckham Hall to a standing ovation, began her hour-long talk describing recent coverage by “Democracy Now” of what she called “the resistance,” meaning the people, organizations and events in opposition to many of President Donald Trump’s decisions, appointments and executive orders.
“I am actually all for reality television, but I mean reality,” Goodman said to the crowd. “We need (to hear from) people at the target end of U.S. policy, who are there describing their own lives.”
What’s unique about “Democracy Now” is the show’s focus on highlighting voices and stories outside of what is offered on large, commercial news outlets.
“We need the media to open up,” she said. “To bring us pundits who you don’t get on television now, that small circle of pundits who know so little about so much, explaining the world to us and getting it so wrong.”
Goodman was also scheduled to speak at Yale University on Tuesday.