Saturday, November 9, 2002

Book review: ‘Censored 2003’ by Project Censored

Book cover: "Censored 2003 -- The Top 25 Censored Stories"
It’s been several years since I finished my schooling -- for the time being, anyway -- but I find that I’m still devoting considerable time to what I call my “homework.”

The only difference is that the required reading I’ve assigned to myself has more of a career focus, rather than an academic one. Hence, the subscription to “American Journalism Review.” And likewise, the purchase of Censored 2003: The Top 25 Censored Stories by Peter Phillips and Project Censored (Seven Stories Press, 2002).

Project Censored is an investigative sociology and media analysis project that is managed through SSU’s Department of Sociology in its School of Social Sciences. Each year, Project Censored compiles 25 important stories that were under-reported in the mainstream news media during the preceding year. It’s a long process, that involves the screening of several thousand stories by Project Censored students and staff.

About 700 stories are selected for evaluation, and the whittling-down process involves input, in stages, by about 150 people -- students, staff, faculty/community advisors and self-selected national judges.

As a newspaper writer, I consider it essential to be as informed as possible about the world around me -- particularly in areas that don’t always get as much attention as they should. And so, for the past the past three or four years I’ve faithfully obtained each volume as soon as it was available. (Note to the similarly faithful: There is no Censored 2002. Censored 2003 covers 18 months of under-reported news, including an analysis of various stories related to Sept. 11, 2001.)

This series of books is invaluable for the attention they bring to important news stories, the journals that cover them and the news outlets that don’t. Among this year’s line-up, two of the stories originally appeared in “Mother Jones” -- which is quite possibly one of the best magazines in existence. Its continued appearance in Project Censored’s pages was one of the influencing factors in my decision to purchase a subscription.

Also of value is the analysis this series offers concerning grassroots and independent movements within the area of information gathering and dissemination. Each volume provides a glossary of independent publications and activist organizations for people who want to get a more complete picture of the world around them.

In a way, these books serve as snapshots into the alternative media’s continued evolution. And sometimes, re-reading earlier volumes, the sense of history astonishes me. In Censored 1999, for example, Project Censored profiled Free Radio Berkeley -- a forerunner in the campaign to bring low-power radio into local communities. What was civil disobedience then is now duly licensed, and Lake County’s own KPFZ-LP 104.5 FM is a beneficiary of those pioneering efforts.

Published Nov. 9, 2002 in the Lake County Record-Bee