Project Censored

Annual media watchdog list critiques coverage of whistleblowers and wealth gaps -- and the notion of journalistic objectivity

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joe@sfbg.com

This year's annual Project Censored list of the most underreported news stories includes the widening wealth gap, the trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning for leaking classified documents, and President Obama's war on whistleblowers — all stories that actually received considerable news coverage.

So how exactly were they "censored" and what does that say of this venerable media watchdog project?

Project Censored isn't only about stories that were deliberately buried or ignored. It's about stories the media has covered poorly through a sort of false objectivity that skews the truth. Journalists do cry out against injustice, on occasion, but they don't always do it well.

That's why Project Censored was started back in 1976: to highlight stories the mainstream media missed or gave scant attention to. Although the project initially started in our backyard at Sonoma State University, now academics and students from 18 universities and community colleges across the country pore through hundreds of submissions of overlooked and underreported stories annually. A panel of academics and journalists then picks the top 25 stories and curates them into themed clusters. This year's book, Censored 2014: Fearless Speech in Fearful Times, hits bookstores this week.

What causes the media to stumble? There are as many reasons as there are failures.

Brooke Gladstone, host of the radio program On the Media and writer of the graphic novel cum news media critique, The Influencing Machine, said the story of Manning (who now goes by the first name Chelsea) was the perfect example of the media trying to cover a story right, but getting it mostly wrong.

"The Bradley Manning case is for far too long centered on his personality rather than the nature of his revelations," Gladstone told us. Manning's career was sacrificed for sending 700,000 classified documents about the Iraq war to WikiLeaks. But the media coverage focused largely on Manning's trial and subsequent change in gender identity.

Gladstone said that this is part of the media's inability to deal with vast quantities of information which, she said, "is not what most of our standard media does all that well."

The media mangling of Manning is number one on the Project Censored list, but the shallow coverage this story received is not unique. The news media is in a crisis, particularly in the US, and it's getting worse.

 

WATCHING THE WATCHDOGS

The Project for Excellence in Journalism, which conducts an annual analysis of trends in news, found that as revenue in journalism declined, newsrooms have shed 30 percent of their staff in the last decade. In 2012, the number of reporters in the US dipped to its lowest level since 1978, with fewer than 40,000 reporters nationally. This creates a sense of desperation in the newsroom, and in the end, it's the public that loses.

"What won out is something much more palpable to the advertisers," says Robert McChesney, an author, longtime media reform advocate, professor at University of Illinois, and host of Media Matters from 2000-2012. Blandness beat out fearless truth-telling.

Even worse than kowtowing to advertisers is the false objectivity the media tries to achieve, McChesney told us, neutering its news to stay "neutral" on a topic. This handcuffs journalists into not drawing conclusions, even when they are well-supported by the facts.

In order to report a story, they rely on the words of others to make claims, limiting what they can report.

"You allow people in power to set the range of legitimate debate, and you report on it," McChesney said.

Comments

was part of the process to censor the real story?

Posted by Matlock on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 7:24 pm

"Manning's career was sacrificed for sending 700,000 classified documents about the Iraq war to WikiLeaks," writes Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez. "But the media coverage focused largely on Manning's trial and subsequent change in gender identity."

First, a factual correction: of the 734,885 documents Manning passed to WikiLeaks, not all were classified and many had nothing to do with Iraq.

More to the point, there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for why the media focused on Manning instead of his leaks. Few of those disclosures had lasting newsworthiness. As Denver Nicks observes in his biography of Manning, "The administration and its cheerleaders sought to downplay the significance of the leaks by highlighting how benign they ultimately were, and they were right. … Taken on the whole, the logs were profoundly, troublingly boring, of interest primarily to journalists and historians." The Iraq War Logs, Nicks goes on, "confirmed the narrative of a complex and messy war that had been widely reported in the mainstream press. … For the most part the leaks merely confirmed what was already assumed or asserted."

Additionally, Manning's legal defense team during the lengthy pretrial and trial phases of his court-martial kept the focus on the accused, not on the substance of his leaks. This included Manning's gender identity conflict, which was introduced repeatedly into the proceedings by defense lawyers over the government's consistent objections that it wasn't relevant.

Considering its lack of ongoing significance and dearth of fresh developments, the Manning case was covered more than adequately by news organizations worldwide. If journalism is the first draft of history, then naturally once that draft is finished, journalists move on to other stories and leave the final telling to historians. And leave the second-guessing, it seems, to Project Censored.

Posted by Alan Kurtz on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 12:48 pm

I think releasing state secrets is OK in general.

The people who made the big deal about Manning's private life were; Manning, his lawyers, idiotic liberals... you know, like the ones you find writing at SFBG.

Manning's sexual identity was a huge issue for SF progressobots, you know the hysterics around the pride parade?

Now it's not an issue when they progressives were in hysterics over it?

Posted by Matlock on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 6:10 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 10:00 pm

If banks were required to accrue operation equity (retained interest payments) equivalent to about 35-40%, appended with binding regulatory policies, then obfuscated hyperinflation, equivalent to approximately 300% of GDP, might be relieved instead of waiting for crisis, translated economic shock.

Posted by Awayneramsey on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 1:42 pm

What was that incoherent drivel?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 2:27 pm

Basically what he's saying, is that if banks/lenders were required to keep a lot more real cash on hand to sufficiently protect against losses on loans that they have given out, then economic bubbles would be far less likely to grow too large and go haywire, to then collapse the global economic system. This is because defaults on loans, mortgages, and other credit debt could more easily and quickly be covered by that better store of cash on hand.

Currently banks/lenders can lend out at least 10 times more money than they keep on hand; and often they manage to crazily lend out orders of magnitude more (the latter which is totally insane and amounts to out-of-control mass counterfeiting using the computer hard drives of banks as virtual printing presses that endlessly churn out worthless 'money' in the form of new debt).

So what guest is getting at, is that if banks/lenders were required to back each dollar that they lend with at least 35 to 40 cents in their own holdings, the economy would be a lot less crazy and probably not fall apart every few decades or so.

Personally, I don't agree, because we are reaching the end of the viability of -any- economic system based on perpetual growth and new money/interest creation. Even far more sensible money lending for interest is now doomed, to both fail economically, and to trash the planet environmentally.

We need to end interest based money creation.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 10:24 pm

@ Eric Brooks: Relevant to your last paragraph, Kozul-Wright and Vos (forgot their first names) agree with you, and I with some reservation, but financial institutions should begin somewhere to begin to stop the pressure. Thank you, too, for the economic lingo. Much of my economic-speak was derived from "The Banker's New Clothes" by Anat Admati. If I recall, she is an instructor at Stanford University.

Posted by Awayneramsey on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 9:00 am
Posted by Guest on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 9:53 am

It is actually completely crazy that we allow private profiteers to run our banking, money, and financing system. That is a recipe for out-of-control abuse of the economy.

These functions should all be managed by local, state and national governments, at no interest; and perhaps by some nonprofit co-ops and credit unions (likewise at little or no interest).

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 10:07 am

Eric, some of ideas are so damn plain crazy that I wonder if you really here as a right-wing mole to discredit the left.

Even socialist countries don't run with just one State-owned Bank. The lack of competition almost ensures bad service. Imagine if making a withdrawal was a bureaucratic nightmare like trying to pull a permit at DBI?

But there is nothing to stop you setting up a co-operative bank or a credit union, so what are you waiting for. Everyone can have free money in the socialist nirvana that would be Eric's Bank.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 10:34 am

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 10:49 am

Very interesting article about the uncovered issues by corporate journalists. While not a journalist by training, it became evident to me that the information being provided to us is filtered and then passed along. If you look locally at what is going on, there are corporate owned media companies set up to extract information that belongs to the community and then packages it, and sells it back to us. As our constitution dictated, this free press is essential to hold together our democracy by seeking and reporting on objective truths. An informed citizenry is essential to a fully functioning democracy.

However, monied interests figured out that if they controlled the information, they could also dictate how the story was being told. If you look at the issues covered in this article, all of them could have been prevented had the press been doing their job.

It's obvious to me as an entrepreneur and student of change - it is impossible for an industry where 90% of the firms are owned by 6 parent companies have the willingness to change. It's not in their best interest since they are part of the problem. Most of the 6 parent companies have substantial loans from the large financial institutions given a pass since 2008. The financiers and military industrial complex run this country. The Fed is controlled by them - not by the government. The last president that tried to end our dependency on the Federal Reserve was JFK. Can you say grassy knoll?

There was a great video on CNBC recently where they invited a Salon journalist who tried to hold Jamie Dimon accountable for all the fraud being committed at JP Morgan Chase. The two on-air mouthpieces and one call in guest went directly into apology mode and disgust about his fact finding and holding someone like Jamie Dimon accountable. Check out the article and the video:

http://muncievoice.com/8971/leadership-ethics-profits-cleanse-bad-acts/

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