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Why “Project Censored” Still Matters PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Editorials
Tuesday, 10 October 2006 22:44

In 2000, Mother Jones published a commentary attacking the annual Project Censored list of major stories underrepresented in the mainstream media. The 2006 version of Project Censored starts on page 7 in this week's River Cities' Reader.

The commentary (which can be found at starts with the obvious point that Project Censored is a misnomer - that few if any of these stories have been technically censored by anybody. But its larger concern was that the endeavor had become irrelevant: "Perhaps the greatest indicator that Project Censored has passed its prime is how high on the ‘no shit' scale most of this year's honorees will rank with even marginally informed readers."

Mother Jones also pointed out that times had changed: "Back when Carl Jensen founded Project Censored in 1976 at Sonoma State University in northern California, outlets for alternative views and news - such as cable television, weekly newspapers, and Internet sites - were either far fewer than they are now or didn't exist. If the mass media of the time didn't report it, we likely never heard it."

Those are all valid concerns, but misguided. The glut of media outlets today actually makes Project Censored more relevant, in the sense that in the cacophony of media voices, a lot of important information gets lost. While the stories featured in Project Censored might have appeared in a major media outlet - or were available to anybody with an Internet connection - they never gained critical mass to reach a large audience. For a news or investigative article to have an impact in today's media culture, it needs to gain traction with multiple outlets. These are stories that didn't.

And the situation could get worse. This past year's top underreported story involves access to information and "network neutrality." People in favor of legislating network neutrality argue that larger, well-funded content providers will receive preferential treatment from Internet Service Providers. And that raises the specter of genuine censorship.

The politics of Project Censored is another legitimate complaint. In 2005, the Reader chose not to run Project Censored's list because it felt knee-jerk liberal - in other words, tired and high on the "no shit" scale. In this year's edition, though, all but one or two of the items are based on the reporting of facts rather than the recitation of dogma.

And there is an argument to be made that Project Censored needs to lean left right now. With conservatives controlling the White House, Congress, and the Supreme Court, and with Democrats often marginalizing themselves, there are few government voices reflecting a liberal perspective. Many actions of Congress and the White House go unchecked by either Democrats or the mainstream media.

Project Censored remains important in this one-party climate, but also as media consolidation continues. There might be more media voices than ever before, but the loudest ones are coming from the same few bodies, and it's difficult for smaller outlets to be heard above them. Project Censored tries to correct that.

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