‘Under the Ground: The Story of Liberation News Service’ includes interviews with Austin-based underground veterans.
NOTE: This article was updated at 10:20 a.m. (CT), January 12. We had originally included a link to stream the premiere of the film at Rhode Island PBS, but it turned out the access was geographically limited. However, the show can now be seen anytime through video-on-demand here.
AUSTIN — Under the Ground: The Story of Liberation News Service, an 80-minute documentary film produced and directed by award-winning filmmaker Dorothy Dickie for Rhode Island public television, will premiere Monday, January 11, 2021. It will be livestreamed and then can be viewed through video on demand (see links below).
The film includes interviews with Austin’s Alice Embree, Jim Retherford, and Thorne Dreyer (Dreyer was an editor at LNS in the late ‘60s) and populist commentator Jim Hightower is also featured in clips from a Rag Radio interview.
LNS was an alternative news operation that flourished between 1967 and 1981 in the United States, playing a major – and underrecognized — role in those tumultuous times. LNS distributed packets of news stories, features, and graphics to underground, alternative, and college newspapers and radio stations — content otherwise not available to these feisty but often-shoestring alternative publications that sprung up around the anti-war and student power movement and the ‘60s counterculture.
This is the first comprehensive documentary treatment of LNS. Austin’s New Journalism Project, a Texas nonprofit group based in Austin, was a co-sponsor of the film. (NJP also publishes The Rag Blog, sponsors Rag Radio, and published the book Celebrating The Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Newspaper.) The film includes more than 30 interviews with former LNS staffers and underground press veterans.
Under the Ground is accessible to the public for two years through video on demand starting Monday, January 11, at 10 p.m. Central (11 EST) at this link.
Under the Ground begins and ends with clips from Rag Radio – filmed during our November, 9, 2018 interview with populist activist and former Texas Observer editor Jim Hightower. On the show, Hightower says, “We need an investigative journalism, and we have too little of that. That maverick digging sort of journalism is what matters.” He believes that the Underground Press and LNS “had enormous impact… Media taking on the Vietnam war, finally.”
John Chatfield wrote for Rhode Island PBS:
Featuring live interviews with former staffers, journalists, and activists, the film incorporates footage from the turbulent times and culturally-defining moments that were covered extensively by the LNS, including the 1967 March on the Pentagon and the 1968 sit-ins at Columbia University. The film also examines the fascinating lives of Marshall Bloom and Ray Mungo, two LNS founders who organized a split from the New York offices and moved their base of operations to rural Massachusetts.
Regarded as the ‘AP of the underground press,’ Liberation News Service was tailored to those who felt ignored and misrepresented by mainstream media. The film draws a connection between the LNS of the 1960s and the activism of today, demonstrating how its legacy lives on through social media and the modern progressive movement.
Rhode Island PBS director Dorothy Dickie has produced and directed children’s, science, history, cultural, public affairs, and documentary programming for broadcasters in Canada and the U.S. for over 20 years. Her work has been recognized with a National Emmy and a Peabody Award. Under the Ground is her first independent feature-length documentary.
- Watch Under the Ground on video-on-demand starting January 11, 2021, at 10 p.m. Central (11 EST), here.
- Watch the trailer for Under the Ground here.
[Thorne Dreyer is an Austin-based writer, editor, broadcaster, and activist. A pioneering alternative journalist, Dreyer was a founding editor of the original Rag in 1966 Austin and Space City! in Houston, and was an editor at Liberation News Service (LNS). He was a programmer at and general manager of KPFT-FM, Houston’s Pacifica radio station. Dreyer, who is working on his second book, now edits The Rag Blog, hosts Rag Radio, and is a director of the New Journalism Project. Contact Dreyer at email@example.com.]