Annual media watchdog list critiques coverage of whistleblowers and wealth gaps -- and the notion of journalistic objectivity
Project Censored stories reflect that dynamic — many of them require journalists to take a stand or present an illuminating perspective on a set of dry facts. For example, reporting on the increasing gulf between the rich and the poor is easy, but talking about why the rich are getting richer is where journalists begin to worry about their objectivity, Gladstone said.
"I think that there is a desire to stay away from stories that will inspire rhetoric of class warfare," she said.
Unable to tell the story of a trend and unable to talk about rising inequality for fear of appearing partisan, reporters often fail to connect the dots for their readers.
One of Project Censored stories this year, "Bank Interests Inflate Global Prices by 35 to 40 Percent," is a good example of the need for a media watchdog. Researchers point to interest payments as the primary way wealth is transferred from Main Street to Wall Street.
It's how the banks are picking the pockets of the 99 percent. But if no politician is calling out the banks on this practice, if no advocacy group is gaining enough traction, shouldn't it be the media's role to protect the public and sound the battle cry?
"So much of media criticism is really political commentary squeezed through a media squeezer," Gladstone said, "and it comes out media shaped."
SHAPING THE MEDIA
McChesney says journalism should be a proactive watchdog by independently stating that something needs to be done. He said there's more watchdog journalism calling out inequity in democracies where there is a more robust and funded media.
And they often have one thing we in US don't — government subsidies for journalism.
"All the other democracies in the world, there are huge subsidies for public media and journalism," McChesney said. "They not only rank ahead of us in terms of being democratic, they also rank ahead of us in terms of having a free press. Our press is shrinking."
No matter what the ultimate economic solution is, the crisis of reporting is largely a crisis of money. McChesney calls it a "whole knife in the heart of journalism."
For American journalism to revive itself, it has to move beyond its corporate ties. It has to become a truly free press. It's time to end the myth that corporate journalism is the only way for media to be objective, monolithic, and correct.
The failures of that prescription are clear in Project Censored's top 10 stories of the year:
1. Manning and the Failure of Corporate Media
Untold stories of Iraqi civilian deaths by American soldiers, US diplomats pushing aircraft sales on foreign royalty, uninvestigated abuse by Iraqi allies, the perils of the rise in private war contractors — this is what Manning exposed. They were stories that challenge the US political elite, and they were only made possible by a sacrifice.
Manning got a 35-year prison sentence for the revelation of state secrets to WikiLeaks, a story told countless times in corporate media. But as Project Censored posits, the failure of our media was not in the lack of coverage of Manning, but in its focus.
Though The New York Times partnered with WikiLeaks to release stories based on the documents, many published in 2010 through 2011, news from the leaks have since slowed to a trickle — a waste of over 700,000 pieces of classified intelligence giving unparalleled ground level views of America's costly wars.
The media quickly took a scathing indictment of US military policy and spun it into a story about Manning's politics and patriotism. As Rolling Stone pointed out ("Did the Media Fail Bradley Manning?"), Manning initially took the trove of leaks to The Washington Post and The New York Times, only to be turned away.