Censored in 2006, Part II

Media Rants

By Tony Palmeri

From the February, 2007 issue of The Valley Scene

Last month I identified half of the top ten stories censored by northeast Wisconsin corporate media in 2006. They were: (10) Participatory journalism as a cash machine; (9) What causes poverty; (8) All Republicans matter; (7) Cumulus stations won’t allow candidate response to attack ads; (6) Consequences of board size reduction bill. Staying fully informed in the Valley requires visiting independent sources of news and information. Be sure to check out these sites: www.oshkoshnews.org, www.babblemur.com, www.eyeonoshkosh.blogspot.com, and www.foxpolitics.net .

And now the top five censored stories of 2006.

No. 5: Greens Excluded From Debates. The Green Party in 2006 ran Nelson Eisman for Governor and Rae Vogeler for US Senate. “We the People,” a Republicrat front organization, refused to allow Eisman and Vogeler to debate the establishment candidates. Northeast Wisconsin corporate media, like their cronies in other parts of the state, did not take the lead in helping to create a level playing field for all qualified candidates. The losers ultimately were not Eisman and Vogeler, but Wisconsin voters who once again were robbed of an opportunity to hear thoughtful challenges to the politics as usual smokescreen pervading the “We the People” sham debates.

No. 4: Wisconsin’s Tax Heaven For Big Business. In December the Milwaukee-based Institute for Wisconsin’s Future released a report showing that in 2003, two out of three of the state’s 54,644 corporate filers paid no income tax. The report also showed that more than 30 states have higher business taxes than does Wisconsin, completely debunking the myth of our state as a big business “tax hell.” IWF Research Director Jack Norman concluded: “While major firms require substantial public services-police, fire, sewage, street maintenance, courts, schools and so on, 60% of the state's biggest firms pay zero corporate income tax. When combined with numerous property tax and sales tax exemptions, the result is a relatively small corporate contribution to the costs of supporting the basic public structures of state and local government.” Corporate media certainly reported the IWF’s findings, but mostly in ways that allowed big business lobbyists to launch ad hominen attacks against the IWF. Concerned citizens were left wondering why it is left to think tanks like IWF to do tax deadbeat research. The sad fact is that Wisconsin’s corporate media, itself a big business, has censored any meaningful discussion of who pays and who does not pay taxes in Wisconsin.

No. 3: Key To The City Recipient Has Fake Degrees. Imagine the absurdity of living in a university town and watching the “Key to the City” awarded to a person who lied about his academic credentials? That’s exactly what happened in Oshkosh last August, as CESSNA CEO Jack Pelton was awarded the Key to the City by the Experimental Aircraft Association and the city of Oshkosh. When Pelton became CESSNA CEO, his official bio stated:"Pelton holds BS and MS degrees in Aerospace Engineering from Hamilton University.” As I reported in the August Scene, in November of 2004, CBS' Sixty Minutes did a feature on "Diplomas for Sale." Reporter Vicki Mabrey reported on online diploma mills, focusing specifically on "Hamilton University." According to the story:

"How do you get a degree from Hamilton? You start by filling out a form on a site that claims to be an independent referral service. But it really was set up to funnel business to Hamilton. You’ll then be offered dozens of degrees. If you’re accepted, and chances are good you will be, it can take as little as a week or two to get a diploma. Your main assignments are to write a short paper and a big check."

To my knowledge Mr. Pelton has never apologized publicly for his behavior. Yet the same valley corporate media now obsessed over whether Rep. Steve Kagen insulted Laura Bush did not see fit to inform the population about Pelton’s past.

No. 2: Clerks Exempt From Open Meetings Law. Thanks to a misreading of the federal “Help America Vote Act” and intense lobbying by voting technology manufacturers, the Valley in 2006 saw the introduction of touch screen voting machines in most polling places. A story much underreported deals with the fact that the decision to bring in the unreliable technology was made by municipal and county clerks acting outside public view. With public confidence in election results at an all time low, more needs to be done by media at all levels to ensure transparency in all decisions effecting our votes.

No. 1: Local Cost Of The Iraq War. Unfortunately, this must be the top censored story for the second year in a row. Establishment editorialists and pundits throughout the Valley continue to lament the shortage of monies for basic services in our local communities, yet rarely make the link to the incredible waste of life and financial resources in Iraq. As I write this column in mid January, almost $360 billion has been spent on the war. That includes a combined $236 million from Oshkosh, Appleton, and Green Bay. Sadly I must close with the same final sentence from last year’s column: “How much more blood and money will it take before mainstream media lead the effort to get us out of Iraq with the same gusto exerted to get us in?”

Cost of the War in Iraq
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Tony Palmeri (www.tonypalmeri.com) is an associate professor of communication at UW Oshkosh.