Censored in 2007, Part 1

Media Rants

By Tony Palmeri

From the January 2007 edition of The Scene

Every year since 1976 Sonoma State University's Project Censored has identified news stories "underreported, ignored, misrepresented, or censored in the United States." Censored 2008 (Seven Stories Press) laments the death of habeas corpus rights as a consequence of Congressional and Bush Administration approval of the “Military Commissions Act” as the top censored story of 2007. A summary of Project Censored’s top censored stories of the year can be found here: http://www.projectcensored.org/censored_2008/index.htm

Inspired by Project Censored, every year I dedicate two columns to the top ten stories that were in my judgment censored by the local corporate media. As long as corporate media remain the most watched, read, and listened to sources of information, we need to demand more ethical and thorough coverage of issues.

And now the censored stories:

No. 10: Taxpayers Clean EAA’s Crap. Last August the Oshkosh Common Council approved hefty rate increases for sewer and water services. Just out of curiosity, I asked the Director of Public Works how much the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) paid for waste treatment services during their annual fly-in. Come to find out that in 1986 the city manager waived EAA’s fee. Taxpayers clean EAA’s crap in spite of the fact that all other large events (e.g. Country USA, Lifest) pay the fee. Had EAA paid up in 2007, the city would have received $10,758.

Councilor Paul Esslinger contacted EAA management and was able to get them to agree to start paying the fee beginning with the 2008 convention. What a shame that corporate media censorship allowed this outrageous corporate welfare to go on for more than 20 years.

No. 9: The PAC’s Financial Status. Most people agree that the Appleton Performing Arts Center (PAC) is an asset to the Fox Cities. The cultural, educational, and economic benefits of bringing Broadway caliber shows to northeast Wisconsin cannot be overstated. Unfortunately, the establishment press’ coverage of the financial condition of the PAC is typically shallow and incomplete.

For a more complete analysis, search Jo Egelhoff’s foxpolitics.net site. Jo’s a strong supporter of the PAC, which is why she understands that its long-term viability requires candid assessments of financial stability. As noted by Jo, “reveling in Lion King successes must not be allowed to cloud our thoughts about the financial picture over there.”

No. 8: Valley Media Caught Napping On WMHI Chaos. In early September, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel broke a disturbing story involving dozens of acts of violence and sexual aggression at the Winnebago Mental Health Institute (WMHI). Local blogger “The Chief” concludes, “The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel simply asked the right questions and did their homework. The Northwestern did not.” Indeed, the entire Valley press corps has for years neglected to perform substantive and persistent coverage of living conditions in area treatment and correctional facilities. Check out The Chief’s post on how the Oshkosh Northwestern got scooped: http://foxtrot-echo.blogspot.com/2007/09/how-northwestern-got-scooped.html

No. 7: Gannett Fleeces Taxpayers. The Gannett Empire, rulers of northeast Wisconsin print media, editorially fancies itself as a fiscally conservative advocate for taxpayers. Yet when municipal governments want to advertise a variety of city services, Gannett has no problem accepting taxpayer money for that purpose. As of early December, city of Oshkosh taxpayers in 2007 had been taken for over $24,000 by the Oshkosh Northwestern for advertising not required by law. In 2008 an effort should be made to find out the extent of taxpayer fleecing in all Wisconsin’s Gannett occupied territories: Appleton, Fond du Lac, Green Bay, Manitowoc, Marshfield, Oshkosh, Sheboygan, Stevens Point, Wausau, Wisconsin Rapids, Wrightstown, Door County, Kewaunee County, Oconto County, DePere.

Gannett also makes tons of money from taxpayers due to a legal requirement that full texts of ordinances be published in the “official” newspaper. A bill working its way though the legislature would allow cities to publish only summaries of ordinances in the official paper if the whole text is on the Internet. Hopefully that bill will pass in 2008 to halt at least some of the corporate press’ taxpayer fleecing.

No. 6: Sham “Anti-Tax” Rally In Madison. In mid-October, with the Governor and the Republican assembly still at a budget impasse, a group of 300-350 “anti-tax” advocates were met by 700-800 state worker counter demonstrators at the Capitol in Madison. Local media failed to expose and get outraged by the fact that “anti-tax” group was sponsored by “Americans For Prosperity,” a Washington, D.C. based outfit with a track record of sponsoring right wing causes all over the country.

According to the Madison Capitol Times, “Americans For Prosperity was founded in 2003 with money from one of the Koch Family Foundations, which . . . rely on revenues from the vast oil and gas fortunes accumulated by family patriarch Fred Koch and passed on to his billionaire sons, Charles and David Koch.”

None of the corporate media in the entire state picked up on the fact that on the UW Madison library mall the same day as the budget rallies, UW students and speakers from civil liberties organizations tried to raise awareness about the Military Commissions Act and its impact on habeas corpus rights. What a stunning display of the media’s twisted priorities.

Next Month: The Top 5 Censored Stories of 2007

Tony Palmeri (www.tonypalmeri.com) is an associate professor of communication at UW Oshkosh and holds a seat on the Oshkosh Common Council.