Archive Entertainment The Orion

Media spotlight slights serious stories

January 1, 2005

Every day, all over the world, news stories fall through the cracks. And every year Project Censored picks 25 and gives them new life in a book called “Censored: Media Democracy in Action.”

Peter Phillips, the director of Project Censored, will be speaking about the group’s work and “New American Censorship” at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in Harlen Adams Theatre.

The speech will address how media consolidation has made the media more dependent on corporate and government sources for the news they provide and how this has affected coverage.

Phillips, the sociology department chair at Sonoma State, said a decline in investigative reporting has turned the corporate media into stenographers for the people in power and keeps important news from being reported. One fear the press has is losing an important source.

“If you’re writing a critical story about the Pentagon, you risk (losing) continued access,” Phillips said.

Another concern is the amount of space that’s taken away from hard news by stories like the Scott Peterson trial, the Michael Jackson trial or Congress investigating steroids in sports.

None of that is covered in “Censored.” Instead it covers 25 stories ranging from President Bush’s censorship of science, to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s meetings with Ken Lay, to Wal-Mart’s spread of low prices and low standards of living to the rest of the world. Later chapters update stories from previous editions and what has been done.

“Usually about a third of our stories go on to get some kind of national coverage,” Phillips said.

Another focus is called “media democracy in action,” or what independent media sources are doing throughout the country on the Internet, television and radio. These smaller sources focus on filling the gaps that corporate media are ignoring.

A critical focus for the next edition, due out in September, is the 9/11 attacks and certain inconsistencies in the 9/11 Report. These include stock options, pre-warnings and discrepancies in photos of the plane that hit the Pentagon. The most troubling inconsistency, Phillips said, was the collapse of Building Seven in the vicinity of the World Trade Center.

Building Seven was a 42-story building that was one block away from the twin towers. It was farther away than Building Five and Building Six. All three buildings caught fire after the center collapsed. Five and Six had the worst fires, while Seven only had smaller fires on the 13th and 14th floors.

Building Seven, however, was the only one to collapse. News reporters at the time said it looked like a demolition, but there is no record of one being ordered. This left engineering experts baffled.

“They can’t explain why a steel structure with a small fire collapsed,” Phillips said, “other than it was detonated and brought down deliberately.”

Another instance that troubled Phillips was the 80 million people who didn’t vote in the last election.

He said, “They choose not to vote, literally — because it’s very easy to register and actually vote.”

Phillips said the media steered clear of important issues in the campaigns and chose to focus their attention on how the candidates looked and what they did in Vietnam.

“I put this on the head of the corporate media,” Phillips said, “They didn’t even talk about the draft until the last month.”

The draft issue was critical in Phillips’ opinion because there was an actual increase in funding to the Selective Service program and the boards were filled so the government would be ready in case a draft was needed. This, Phillips said, is one reason why the media needs to be monitored and is the purpose of Project Censorship.

He said, “(Being) without a valid media keeping us informed of the world is a threat to democracy.”