The News That Didn't Make The News-And Why
by Cad Jensen
Shelbourne Press, Chapel Hill, N.C. 27515
248 pages, paper, US$12.95
by Kate Kaufman
"Censorship is a policy of examining books,
news reports, motion pictures, radio programs, etc. for the purpose of
suppressing parts deemed objectionable on moral, political, military or
other grounds." -The American College Dictionary
Given the surfeit of media analysis these days, I was uncertain if I
could handle yet another navel-gazing exercise. I was tired of the
futile outrage, the slinging of darts and the bestowal of laurels, the
laying of blame or the uncritical adulation ... the extremes of emotion
surrounding the issue of responsible journalism. It was refreshing to
find that the fourth annual published wrap-up of stories that didn't
make it into the mainstream media sidesteps widely bandied-about
Censored! The News That Didn 't Make the
Why by Carl Jensen takes the position that the heart of the
matter is secrecy versus the people's right to know, First Amendment
Rights, a truly open democracy and real journalistic responsibility.
Project Censored was founded by Jensen in 1976.
Project Censored "ferrets out and publicizes stories of national
importance on issues that have been over-looked or underreported by the
mainstream news media."
In 1992, more than 700 submissions were received
educators, librarians and others interested in the public's right to
know. Synopses are published of 25 shortlisted censored stories, along
with comments by the original authors and others. Reprints of the
original top ten censored stories are included. Juxtaposed arc the Associated
Press top ten stories (see in-set) and the top "junk food
news" stories (Woody/Mia, Di/Fergie, Dan Quayle/Murphy Brown, etc.)
The judges are from university faculties or in
some way involved with
the media. Four of the fourteen (Noam Chomsky, Nicholas Johnson, Jack
L. Nelson and Sheila Rabb Weidcnfeld) have participated in the
selection process since 1976.
It could be argued that a form of censorship is
being applied in the
selection process. However, this yearbook includes a rather
comprehensive look at the definitions of censorship. A number of judges
presented their points of view and it's clear there is a diversity of
background and opinion at work here.
They note that distortion through omission (lack
investigation), suppression (conscious withholding of information), and
reporting after the fact rather than before
the event are some of the ways that the truth is
manipulated. The public becomes hamstrung in its ability to make
knowledgeable decisions. As Jensen reminds us, democracy cannot work in
The catalytic event that triggered Jensen's launch
of the project was
the 1972 landslide re-election of Richard Nixon as president-after
Watergate. How, asked Jensen, could the American people elect such a
man to the office of the president of the United States of America?
Jensen decided to take responsibility for the bewilderment he felt.
Upon investigation it became clear that the White
House, among other
things, meddled in the airing of a CBS-TV Evening News two-part series
on Watergate before the election. The notion that
the break-in was a "two-bit burglary" not worthy of press attention was
Nixon-inspired prevailing wisdom until Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward dug
in with their investigation and made it a national story.
This led to impeachment hearings and Nixon's subsequent resignation.
In short, the American people had been bamboozled.
The press was a
partner in crime-unwittingly or perhaps willingly.
It's a chicken and egg kind of thing: If the
information had been
available would the turn of events have been different? Consider story
number four from the inset above. If the U.S. did not supply weapons to
developing countries would the tragic events of AP story number four
have occurred? Another question Project Censored raises: why in an
election year was the news spotlight on international news rather than
When considering censorship, most people conjure
up the distopian Brave
New World or Nineteen Eighty-Four. Extreme, controlling,
diabolical-a sinister totalitarian state, the "Evil Empire", a name
coined by Ronald Reagan (and adopted by the media) to describe the
former Soviet Union. Seldom, if ever, is systematic censorship within
the U.S. considered news.
Yet Watergate happened in the United States. And
if you look at the
coverage that's presented in the commentaries and reprints of the top
ten censored stories of 1992 you may begin to wonder if you' ve
suddenly fallen into some surreal wonderland. Very little coincides
with what's coming through the mass media.
The questions raised in this book concent
priorities and the nature of
mass media, ownership, deregulation, financial scandals, economic
restructuring, environmental rip-offs, nuclear nightmares, weapons
proliferation, drugs, youth alienation.... The list goes on ad nauseam.
These stories cannot be dismissed; they must be
information age is here, they say. But what is "information"? The
quantity of "junk food news" doesn't and can't substitute for quality
investigation. But whose responsibility is it?
Top Ten Censored Stories of 1992 juxtaposed with the Associated Press
|1. The Great Media
Sell-out to Reoganism
||1. Bill Clinton Wins
Dwarf Street Crime
||2. Los Angeles Riots
|3. Censored Election
||3. Hurricane Andrew
|4. The World's Top Arms
U.S. Grabs More of a Shrinking Market
|4. U.S. Troops to
|5. Iraqgate and the
Silent Death of
The Watergate Law
|5. Yugoslavia Civil War
|6. War on Drugs Lie
||6. U.S. Recession
|7. Trashing federal
||7. Former Soviet
|8. Government Secrecy
||8. Court's Abortion
| 9. Ad Pressure on News
|| 9. Two Hostages
|10. The Pentagon's
|10. Jeffrey Dalmer's
(mass murderer pleads guilty)
Published in Sources, Summer 1993
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