I really hate Project Censored.
There's no reason why a program like this should exist; no reason why a journalist like Carl Jensen should spend two decades of his life pouring over countless newspapers, magazines, journals, and whatnot, searching out all those hidden stories. Then comes the annual list. "Why didn't you cover this issue?" Jensen needles his colleagues. "How come you didn't tell your readers about this outrage?" Nobody in the press wants to hear that stuff; I tell you, the man's just plain rude.
Of course, there wouldn't be a need for Project Censored if journalists and publishers did their job. In a fair and just world, reporters wouldn't need to have someone like Jensen breathing down their necks; they'd have been writing about these stories all along. In that fair and just world, stories like the Telecom Bill, child labor, medical fraud, and the rest would've been in last summer's headlines. And news about that little murder trial in Los Angeles involving an ex-football player would be buried in the back pages.
But the world ain't so perfect, and we need Jensen and his pesky colleagues more than ever. The trend in journalism is clearly towards the sensational and the fluff; the really important stories are covered superficially, or -- most likely -- ignored altogether.
Before reading the Project Censored top ten, I'd suggest you read the story about the feeding frenzy in the Florida media over a bizarre amnesia case. That will might give you a bit more appreciation for the importance of the stories in this year's list.
And after the top ten list, you may want to read Sara Peyton's column, for a look at how our local media has put its own moralistic spin on the reporting of the missing Potter Valley child, all but ignoring her rape to emphasize that she was a "wild" girl who may have abused drugs.
There are two important connections between the Florida story and Sara's column. In both, aspects of sexual abuse were pushed into the background. In both, the press remolded the players in the stories to fit their script. In Florida, the dark past of a man was overlooked so he could be cast as the Anguished Father; in Potter Valley, the girl's "wild streak" received full play.
But the bigger picture is that the press likes to report on stories that fit neatly into little boxes. If the story is too big, needs too much explaining, and doesn't have clear, moralistic barriers between good versus bad -- sorry.
In this world, "Bear" Lincoln was first reported by the Press Democrat as a dangerous, violent ex-con, in the days shortly after last year's Round Valley shootings. Ignored was his proven recent history of 15 years of community work.
In this world, unions do not exist, as Dr. Peter Phillips, the incoming director of Project Censored points out. That is, unless there's a union offical tied to the Mafia, or other bad news.
In this world, it's welfare recipients cheating Medicare, not doctors and hospitals.
Now take another look at Project Censored's list; you'll find virtually every story there reports about a different world from the one you read about in your daily papers -- and that's the real reason Project Censored is so important.
We're proud to say that the Albion Monitor has reported on seven of the top ten issues in this year's list, and we reprinted one of the actual stories, "NAFTA's Corporate Con Artists" in a November edition.
In that same issue, we reported on whites and the wealthy exploiting set-aside programs for minorities. (It didn't make Project Censored's list, but I personally think it should have.) But that story -- as well as many of the stories we've done on those Project Censored topics -- have not appeared anywhere else. Same with our report on nursing home fraud; the Albion Monitor was the only newspaper in the country to cover that story.
In fact, you can find similar stories in every issue of the Albion Monitor. It's a point of pride that each edition has contained at least one state, national, or world "scoop" before any other newspaper -- that is, if the other media ever covers these stories at all.
It was also good (and saddening) to hear both Jensen and Phillips describe how advertising influences the editorial content of newspapers. It's what I've been saying in these editorials since we began, probably to the annoyance of many readers: ads and news are a deadly mix.
By refusing all advertising, we can provide the sort of coverage you've found in the past 13 issues -- the kind of coverage where you can find seven out of the top ten issues selected by Project Censored. Next year, we hope to make it ten out of ten.
But to do that, we need your support. The Albion Monitor is supported entirely by subscriptions. If you live in Sonoma County, please consider switching to Monitor Publishing as your Internet service provider. If you live farther away, subscriptions are $29 per year.
We'll be back in a couple weeks with more stories that don't fit the mold, and just might be found in the next Project Censored Hall of Shame.
Hope to see you then.
Jeff Elliott, Editor