PLEASANTON -- Accustomed to reporting the news, journalist Abby Martin suddenly became the story Monday when she took time out from her broadcast on state-sponsored television network Russia Today to speak out against Russian "military aggression" in Crimea.
After the 24-hour news network -- funded by the Russian government and carried by providers in this country under the RT. America banner -- was accused of "Pro-Russian" bias from some critics for its coverage of the Crimean invasion, Martin responded publicly, using her program "Breaking the Set" to extend her support to the Ukrainian people.
"Just because I work here, for RT., doesn't mean I don't have editorial independence, and I can't stress enough how strongly I am against any state military intervention in sovereign nations' affairs," Martin said at the conclusion of the show. "What Russia did is wrong."
"I go into work every day thinking that my job is on the line by telling the truth, whether it be about corporations or U.S. imperialism," Martin explained in an email to the Times. "I also rally against military aggression every day, so the second I felt strongly about Russia's actions I felt a moral obligation to speak out, even if it cost me my job."
Martin has come a long way from her Tri-Valley roots.
Born in San Jose, she and older brother Robert grew up in Pleasanton. She graduated from Amador Valley High School in 2002 and was profiled by Pleasanton Weekly as she packed up for college, describing, among other things, her fondness for Gimanelli's Deli sandwiches.
Martin earned a political science degree from San Diego State University and pursued journalism, founding the Media Roots citizen journalism project. She has hosted "Breaking the Set" on RT. since 2012.
An artist and activist who has sympathized with the Occupy and 9/11 Truth movements, Martin is not one to shy away from controversial subjects, but perhaps none has generated the groundswell of reaction as the one involving her own employers.
Her recent comments on RT. provoked both praise and derision across social media and elsewhere. The network has responded by sending her to Crimea, a job Martin balked at.
In a statement released Tuesday, RT. said it respects Martin's viewpoints, adding the anchor would not face repercussions for her commentary. However, she was handed a new assignment.
"Ms. Martin also noted that she does not possess a deep knowledge of reality of the situation in Crimea," the statement reads. "As such we'll be sending her to Crimea to give her an opportunity to make up her own mind from the epicenter of the story."
Martin's mother, Sue, who lives in Pleasanton, preferred not to comment on the situation with RT., but she did back her daughter for speaking her mind.
"I'm very proud of her," Sue Martin said. "She's always been outspoken. She's got a lot of journalistic integrity and she's got a lot of support."
Martin initially flatly refused the assignment, but later reneged, with caveats.
"I felt like it was the wrong circumstance to go to Crimea, but I told management that I would reconsider after making my own contacts on the ground in both Kiev and Crimea," Martin said via email.
Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.