Eighteen years ago, on February 19, 1996, Democracy Now! aired for the first time. We began as a daily election-year show on Pacifica Radio and a handful of community radio stations. Democracy Now! was supposed to stay on the air for nine months. However, 18 years later, we are now a TV, radio and Internet news hour that millions of people worldwide rely on every day. We air a clip of that first episode before co-hosts Amy Goodman and Juan González are surprised with a birthday cake live on-air.
To celebrate our 18th birthday, we are asking our listeners and viewers to submit a photo or video that describes why Democracy Now! is important to you, starting with “I need Democracy Now! because…” Take a picture of yourself holding a sign or shoot a 30-second or shorter video telling us your name, where you live and why you tune in to Democracy Now! Click here to submit your photo or video. We’ll highlight our favorites online, live on air, or on our social media networks.
AMY GOODMAN: As we wrap up today, on this day, 18 years ago—actually yesterday, on February 19th, but 1996, that was the day when Democracy Now! first aired for the first time. If you were tuning in then, this is what you would have heard.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! From Pacifica Radio, I’m Amy Goodman in Washington. Today on Democracy Now!, Live Free or Die: a look at the political landscape in New Hampshire, where the Republican Revolution has taken its toll. All coming up on Democracy Now!
Today is President’s Day, and tomorrow is the New Hampshire primary. Welcome to the maiden voyage of Democracy Now!, Pacifica’s daily national election show. Greetings to our audiences in California, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., Washington state, Kansas City and Colorado. In this election year, we’re embarking on a nine-month journey through the country and hope to pick up community radio stations in many more states as we go, as we give voice to the grassroots.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: From nine months to 18 years. Well, to celebrate our birthday, we’ve launched a social media campaign where we’re asking people to tell us, “I need Democracy Now! because…” with a photo or video. People can submit their photo/videos at democracynow.org/because. We are using the hashtag #democracynowbecause.
AMY GOODMAN: “Because.”
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: “Because.” And many people have already sent us videos, including these two.
STEVE: I’m Steve. I’m a musician living in Germany, and I need Democracy Now! because the world needs Democracy Now!, and democracy needs information, and Democracy Now! is a wonderful source of information, and I’m thankful for that. And when I play music, I usually wear one of my Democracy Now! T-shirts. So, thank you, Democracy Now!
LAURIE CHARNIGO: Happy birthday, Democracy Now! I am Laurie Charnigo, a librarian in rural Alabama, and I’d like to thank Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman and crew, for bringing us progressive stories that would otherwise fall through the corporate media cracks. We need you in Alabama definitely. So keep up the good work. Happy birthday. Peace.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank everyone who has made this birthday, this 18th anniversary, possible. And thanks to all the folks all over the world who are sending in photographs and videos. Again, you can go to democracynow.org/because, and you can send us what it is that you want to tell us about Democracy Now! Juan, you were there at the very beginning.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: You know, it’s hard to believe it’s been 18 years, Amy, and I think of all of the tremendous journalists and producers that have started their careers or passed through with their careers here. I’m thinking of Jeremy Scahill and Yoruba Richen and Lenina Nadal and so many others who have been—
AMY GOODMAN: David Love.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —who have been with us—David Love.
AMY GOODMAN: And María Carrión.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: So many of them have been here—
AMY GOODMAN: Dan Coughlin.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —and moved on—and Dan Couglin—who have moved on and done such great things. But the time they spent here made this show the rich and powerful show it has become.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, folks, you are the oxygen that makes Democracy Now! continue. And speaking of oxygen, Juan, we’ve got some candles to blow out.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Oh, ready? One, two…
AMY GOODMAN: Happy birthday, everyone. Thank you for making this day possible.