Censored in 2004, Part II

Media Rants

From the February, 2005 issue of The Valley Scene

By Tony Palmeri

Last month I identified half of the top 10 stories censored by mainstream northeast Wisconsin media in 2004. They were: (10) The Blog Brush Off, (9) Reagan Whitewash, (8) Who Paid for the No Special Interest Left Behind Act, (7) B'Gosh Sweatshop, and (6) Jobs Grow, Optimism Shrinks. To escape the censoring tendencies of the corporate press, check out these independent northeast Wisconsin websites: tonypalmeri.com, oshkoshnews.org, eyeonoshkosh.com, foxxriverwatch.com, and the ABV Army Times (http://www.geocities.com/abvtimes/newsa).

And now the top 5 censored stories of 2004:

No. 5: Censoring Barnhill. Professor David Landis Barnhill is the Director of the UWOshkosh Environmental Studies Program. He has a reputation for insightful environmental ethics scholarship, teaching excellence, and selfless community service. Dr. Barnhill is the kind of person we would expect to see an op-ed piece from on Earth Day, right?

UW Oshkosh Environmental Studies Director David Barnhill

Wrong. Barnhill submitted an op-ed to the Oshkosh Northwestern for Earth Day which for unknown reasons was rejected. Could it be due to the fact that Barnhill is an active member of the Green Party? In his op-ed he wrote: "Ultimately, as Gandhi and Martin Luther King showed, nonviolence is a positive state of mind and a spiritual way of life, and it includes ecological wisdom, social justice, and grassroots democracy. On Earth Day during an election year, many of us are pleased that the Greens challenge the status quo politics of the two dominant parties. Our state and our country can only benefit from having candidates for elected office who offer a real alternative and who work for a green future." Months later, Barnhill wrote a letter to the same newspaper endorsing my Green Party candidacy for state assembly. That too was not published.

Newspaper editors are free to accept or reject any op-ed or letter submitted to them. The censoring of Barnhill is but one more example of the myth of the "liberal media."

No. 4: Wangaari Maathi is a Green. Let's stay on the green theme. Wangaari Maathai, the 2004 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is Kenya's assistant minister for environment and natural resources and the founder of the Green Belt Movement. Nationally and locally, coverage of the award neglected to mention that Dr. Maathai founded the Mazingira Green Party in Kenya and was elected to the Kenyan parliament on the Green Party ticket in the first free elections held there in decades. US Green Party national secretary Greg Gerritt said, "It's like an article profiling Nobel laureate Jimmy Carter that never mentions he's a former Democratic President."

In her powerful Nobel acceptance speech, Dr. Maathi challenged the world to broaden the understanding of peace: "There can be no peace without equitable development; and there can be no development without sustainable management of the environment in a democratic and peaceful space. This shift is an idea whose time has come." We can only hope that mass media begin to act responsibly and begin to cover fairly and regularly the citizens' movements around the globe that are sparking the shift of which Maathi speaks.

No. 3: No Help For The People's Legislature. Northeast Wisconsin's mainstream news media claim to be upset about corruption in Madison. We've seen editorials lambasting legislative inertia and gridlock, along with television and radio coverage of the mess in Madison. Yet when in 2004 former Democratic nominee for governor Ed Garvey announced an early 2005 convening of a "People's Legislature," these allegedly agitated media did very little, in fact nothing, to mobilize citizens to attend.

Some remarks made by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's Mike McCabe help us to figure out why the media would be in no hurry to help a People's Legislature. McCabe said that Wisconsin is quickly becoming a collection of Wal-Marts and prisons connected by very wide roads. Mainstream corporate media are the biggest cheerleaders for such projects. Why would they want to provoke demonstrations against it?

Media shutout notwithstanding, Garvey still managed to get over 1,100 people to attend. Go to fightingbob.com for more information.

No. 2: Gannett's Media Monopoly. In July the Gannett Corporation purchased the Brown County Publishing Company and its flagship paper the Green Nay News Chronicle. In August I wrote a cover story for the Scene that covered the issue in some depth. None of the local Gannett papers presented any serious reporting or editorializing about Brown County Publishing Company president Frank Wood's decades long battle against Gannett, though the Post Crescent's Dan Flannery was allowed to print a puff piece about his apprenticeship with Mr. Wood. Reader Robert Nordlander responded to Flannery's piece in an "It's Your Call" spot. He said of media monopolies, "Is this trend really intellectually healthy for consumers of newspapers, radio, and television? Remember, Neenah and Menasha had newspapers serving each city before Gannett purchased them and subsequently killed them."

No. 1: Bush and Kerry on Media Ownership Rules. Corporate media coverage of presidential races is always shameful in its shallowness, but this year we were even subject to censorship of a key issue. What were the Bush and Kerry views on proposed FCC changes in media ownership rules? Look long and hard at local press archives and you will have difficult finding even minimal coverage of this vital issue.

Let us vow not to tolerate censorship in 2005!


Tony Palmeri (www.tony palmeri.com) is an associate professor of communication at UW Oshkosh.