June 8, 2010
The mission of Project Censored is to teach students and the public about the role of a free press in a free society – and to tell the News That Didn’t Make the News and Why
WHAT IS MODERN CENSORSHIP?
At Project Censored, we examine the coverage of news and information important to the maintenance of a healthy and functioning democracy. We define Modern Censorship as the subtle yet constant and sophisticated manipulation of reality in our mass media outlets. On a daily basis, censorship refers to the intentional non-inclusion of a news story – or piece of a news story – based on anything other than a desire to tell the truth. Such manipulation can take the form of political pressure (from government officials and powerful individuals), economic pressure (from advertisers and funders), and legal pressure (the threat of lawsuits from deep-pocket individuals, corporations, and institutions).
WHAT IS MEDIA ACCOUNTABILITY
In our view, the only valid justification for declining a news story is that in a medium limited by time and space, another news story was simply more important to the people of the community, whether local, national or international. While admittedly a subjective process, it is, nonetheless, a process to be undertaken by the news people themselves (the investigative journalists and editors), NOT by the managers and CEOs of their “parent company.” No professional journalist or researcher should ever have to face the destruction of his or her career (or life) simply because they wanted to tell the truth. While no two people will always agree on what story is more important than another, a system where the working reporters and editors run the newsroom would at least provide a fertile environment for debate, dissent and critical thinking.
The growth of independent media and journalism in recent years shows that people throughout the world yearn to hold not only their leaders accountable, but their media sources as well. For that reason, the Project Censored research program continues, in its small way, to support and highlight those who tell the truth about the power elite (no matter the consequences) and are relentless in their quest to hold Big Media accountable for their decisions.
Corporate Media Ownership
The Project Censored team researched the board members of 10 major media organizations from newspaper to television to radio. Of these ten organizations, we found there are 118 people who sit on 288 different American and international corporate boards proving a close on-going interlock between big media and corporate America. We found media directors who also were former Senators or Representatives in the House such as Sam Nunn (Disney) and William Cohen (Viacom). Board members served at the FCC such as William Kennard (New York Times) and Dennis FitzSimmons (Tribune Company) showing revolving door relationships with big media and U.S. government officials.
These ten big media organizations are the main source of news for most Americans. Their corporate ties require us to continually scrutinize the quality of their news for bias. Disney owns ABC so we wonder how the board of Disney reacts to negative news about their board of directors friends such as Halliburton or Boeing. We see board members with connections to Ford, Kraft, and Kimberly-Clark who employ tens of thousands of Americans. Is it possible that the U.S. workforce receives only the corporate news private companies want them to hear? Do we collectively realize that working people in the U.S. have longer hours, lower pay and fewer benefits than their foreign counterparts? If these companies control the media, they control the dissemination of news turning the First Amendment on its head by protecting corporate over public interest, placing profit over people, and publish spin not facts.
A Brief History of Project Censored:
Project Censored began over 30 years ago, in 1976, as an epiphany within the mind of Carl Jensen, now Professor Emeritus, Communications Studies, Sonoma State University, California (SSU). Carl realized that vital information was being continuously and systematically filtered by a news media industry owned by fewer and fewer corporations. The industry operated at the behest of a power-elite interested in advancing collective control, rather than to advance public awareness of the problems it faced and faces. The idea was to have a group of respected scholars find and select 25 under-reported, misrepresented, or frankly censored news stories over the preceding year that were of maximal importance to the public. This effort of the few gradually evolved into formal courses of study at SSU.
With Dr. Jensen’s retirement in 1996, the project was passed to Dr. Peter Phillips, award winning Professor of Sociology at SSU where he teaches on Media Censorship, Power, Class Stratification, and Social Welfare. Peter has authored, or co-authored several books including Impeach the President; The Case Against Bush and Cheney, and Project Censored Guide to Independent Media and Activism, along with the Project Censored annual yearbooks dating from 1997. He is also the author of several academic papers, as well as op-ed pieces for various alternative and independent media outlets. Peter continues to speak frequently on media censorship and has been a frequent commentator on radio and television talk shows including: Talk of the Nation, Public Interest, Talk America, World Radio Network, Democracy Now!, and the Jim Hightower Show. Under Dr. Phillips’ leadership, Project Censored continued to grow in stature, and has become increasingly independent – now overseen by Media Freedom Foundation, Inc. where he serves as Board President.
Over the past 30 years of Project Censored classes, over 2000 students at SSU have been trained in media research, First Amendment issues, and in the importance of a free press. Through a partnership of faculty, students, and the community, Project Censored has discovered and analyzed thousands of important news stories over the years, ranking them into the Top 25, and publishing them into a series of books released in September of each year – most recently in Censored 2010, published by Seven Stories Press, New York.
Current or previous national judges for the Project include: Noam Chomsky, Susan Faludi, George Gerbner, Sut Jhally, Frances Moore Lappe, Michael Parenti, Herbert I. Schiller, Barbara Seaman, Erna Smith, Mike Wallace and Howard Zinn. Recent Censored books have been published in Spanish and Italian.
After completing thirteen Censored books, Peter has passed the mantle to Mickey Huff, Associate Professor of History at Diablo Valley College, former Adjunct Lecturer in Sociology at Sonoma State University, and the previous Co-Director of the alternative public opinion research agency Retropoll, in Berkeley, CA http://retropoll.org, Mickey now serves as the Director of the Project Censored, and is a fellow board member of Media Freedom Foundation, working with Professor Phillips.
Mickey teaches courses in U.S. Media History, Sociology of Media and Censorship, Propaganda and Media Studies, Critical Thinking concerning 9/11 and American Empire, and Popular Culture. He designed and taught classes on “History of U.S. Media” at Berkeley City College, Critical Reasoning in History, “America, 9/11, and the War on Terror: Media Myth Making and the Propaganda of Historical Construction,” and “American Popular Culture and Mass Media in Historical Perspectives” at Diablo Valley College and, in the past, several other colleges in the San Francisco Bay Area. Mickey has also co-organized and presented at numerous national academic conferences on media and recent historical events, and has given many public addresses at colleges, community halls, and bookstores across the US on media censorship and American history. Mickey was the Visiting Scholar for the Academic Library at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln in the spring of 2009, where he gave a keynote address on media censorship and democracy. Also in 2009, he co-authored “Media Reform Meets Truth Emergency” and Deconstructing Deceit: 9/11, the Media, and Myth Information” in the Censored 2009 yearbook, and co-edited and co-authored Censored 2010 along with Peter Phillips.
Mickey is currently working on a number of academic articles along with Dr. Phillips, including the recently published “State Crimes Against Democracy” (SCADs). Mickey is also a musician and composer of over 20 years and lives with his family just outside Berkeley, CA.
Project Censored works in cooperation with multiple colleges and universities where academic classes in Sociology and Media are able to earn credit for their research and participate in writing the annual yearbook.
Between 700 and 1000 stories are submitted to Project Censored each year by journalists, scholars, librarians, and concerned citizens around the world. With the help of more than 200 Sonoma State University faculty, students, and community members, Project Censored reviews the story submissions for coverage, content, reliability of sources and national significance. The university community then selects 25 stories to submit to the Project Censored panel of judges who finally rank them in order of importance. All 25 stories are featured in the yearbook and are available at the Project Censored website: http://projectcensored.org, which receives over one million views per month from throughout the world. A quarterly published newsletter is also widely distributed with a circulation of nearly 10,000.