The Santa Rosa Press Democrat/New York Times “censors” the annual Project Censored story. Why? Some impertinent questions for the Press Democrat

Pub date November 13, 2006
SectionBruce Blog

To the Santa Rosa Press Democrat:

This morning I got an email from Carl Jensen, the founder of Project Censored at your nearby Sonoma State University, complaining that the Press Democrat published an “irresponsible page one article” about Project Censored and its annual Sonoma State Conference. He and Peter Phillips, the current director of the project, have asked for answers to the questions they have raised about your coverage.

As the editor and publisher of the alternative paper that has for years proudly run the Project Censored story, and then sent it out for publication in alternative papers throughout the country, I would appreciate your response to their charges of omission and commission as noted below. And I also have some questions. I am sending them via the Bruce blog at our website to the reporter, and the editors and publsher of the Post Democrat.

I have been astounded through the years that the Press Democrat has never to my knowledge written up this annual story. And then, this year, instead of running a fair story on a major local story by a major local university on its 30th anniversary, I was further astounded to find that you go on the attack mode and pick out one story and use it to lambaste the project on the front page of the Press Democrat. I find it particularly galling that, after censoring the story for three decades or so, you finally do the story on the project’s 30th anniversary, a major journalistic and academic milestone. Bush. Real bush.

Some questions:

+Will you answer the questions raised by Jensen and Phillips in their notes to you? (Please send them also to me for publication in the Guardian and the Bruce blog.) Will you run the Phillips’ answer in an op ed?

+Why have you never run this story through the years? (If you have, I would appreciate knowing about it and would love to see copies.)

+Why this year, instead of running a fair account of a nationally recognized project in journalism, did you center on just one story, which was number l8 on the list, and left out a flood of stories on important issues. (See the Guardian Censored package link below). In fact, in our coverage, we did not even go down this far on the list and concentrated on the top l0 stories, which ranged from number one (“The Feds and the media muddy the debate over internet freedom” to number ten (“Expanded air war in Iraq kills more civilians”). We did synopses and comments on the other stories and cited the source. Why didn’t you at least do this and run a list of the stories, so people had a chance to judge the project for themselves, if you were going to do a hit attack and not a fair story? (We ran the entire list in our online package.) Why didn’t you at least say this was the project’s 30th anniversary and provide some history and context?

+Why didn’t you get comments from any of the distinguished Censored judges through the years or from any of its many supporters, including Ben Bagdikian, author of “The Media Monopoly” and former dean of the UC-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and Noam Chomsky, and Robert McChesney, a prominent media critic and author, and many many others. Or from any of the alternative press that regularly runs the Censored story as one of its most widely read and highly respected issues of the year?

+Each year, Censored runs l0 stories that it considers Junk Food News. Doesn’t this story qualify as a top entry this year?

I would also appreciate it you would address the larger issue of “censorship” that this project, and many of us, try to address. As the only daily paper in the Bay Area not aligned with the emerging Singleton/Hearst regional monopoly, you have a special responsbility to report the news, not censor it and mangle as you do annually with this story.

This is particularly the case with the paper of Jayson Blair, Judith Miller, and the uncritical news stories and editorials that helped march us into Iraq and a deadly occupation. The “censored” Iraq stories, let me emphasize, were a major staple of Project Censored and the Guardian, and other alternative papers that ran Censored stories and took the anti-war side and condemned the preemptive invasion before and during the war and up to the present day.

Last impertinent question: has the Press Democrat/NY Times done a major local story on the impact of the Hearst/Singleton moves to destroy daily competition and impose regional monopoly in the
Bay Area (and the Clint Reilly/Joe Alioto suit to break up the unholy alliance)? If not, why not? If not, when will you start doing this kind of major local story and stop doing attack stories on major local projects such as Project Censored? Have you run the major Hearst scandal story on prescription drug pricing (from the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, and previous Bruce blogs). This is a story, let me emphasize, that Singleton papers are also censoring as yet another example of the Hearst/Singleton mutual benefit society. Until you do this Hearst/Singleton story and pursue it properly, until you run the major Hearst scandal story, until you start doing fair and balanced stories on major local projects such as Project Censored, you have no business criticizing anybody on much of anything involving media criticism. Thanks very much.

Dear Colleague:

On October 4, the Press Democrat published an irresponsible page one article about Project Censored and a conference it held at SSU. The article, written by Paul Payne, appeared to be set up to attack Project Censored. He interviewed two well-known critics of the project before the conference took place. They didn’t even attend the conference to know what the speaker said.

In all my years in journalism, as a journalism professor, and as an advisor to the SSU STAR, Payne’s hit-piece definitely was one of the least objective articles I have ever read.

In the weeks following, the Press Democrat published just two letters concerning the ethics of Payne’s article leading readers to believe there was little public reaction. However, there were well over 100 comments submitted to the Press Democrat on line with the great majority castigating the PD.

Following is a letter Peter Phillips, director of Project Censored, wrote to Payne questioning his article Further, Phillips is submitting an op ed article to the PD this week, in hopes of letting the public know the truth about the conference and the speaker.

I thought you, as a journalist, should be aware of this unethical behavior by Payne and the Press Democrat.

Carl Jensen

Dear Paul Payne,

Staff Writer for the Press Democrat

October 6, 2007

Subject: There’s that other theory on 9/11: SSU hosts discredited academic who says U.S. could have planned attack.? Page 1 October 4, 2006 Press Democrat

Were we at the same lecture last? Friday night?? Somehow you missed reporting? Dr. Jones’? first 45 minutes on the?collapse speeds of building 7 and the Twin towers, which where the principle physics questions? presented that evening.??

Did you? tape the lecture, because nowhere can we find Dr. Jones making a statement that the US Government did it? He was quite clear in saying he doesn’t know who placed the thermite in the building,? if indeed that is what was used.

When you write that Jones’ theories have been discredited/condemned by other scholars and critics as groundless,? it would be nice to actually cite who is making these charges.? If you look on the 9/11 Scholars for Truth website you will find the names of over 2 dozen structural engineers, physicists, chemists, and other scientists who support his work . That sounds to us like a valid scientific dispute not a total or even partial discrediting.?

When we discuss journalism at the University we clearly talk about objectivity and balance as the hallmark of solid reporting. So we are wondering how the effort by you to present both sides of the issues was missed? Obviously, the quotes from the two well-known enemies of Project Censored were obtained before you came to the lecture, but why weren’t the numerous other professors present at the event or Project Censored people, or even Jones himself given the opportunity to respond to the critics???

The article was so one-sided and biased that we will be formally requesting to Pete Golis to provide space for a 700 word response sometime within the next two weeks.??

Disagreeing on scientific issues is one thing, slandering a visiting scholar is quite another.? I saw Dr. Jones’ face when he read your article.? He didn’t deserve such a mean-spirited slight. What a terrible thing to do to him personally.??

Dr. Jones spoke at the University of Colorado the? weekend before last and I have attached the Denver Post story for your review.? Perhaps this will assist you in understanding what balanced objectivity in news is about.

Peter Phillips


SFBG Project Censored