March 29, 2012

Hidden Headlines: Is Your News Censored?

Peter_Kaufman_Bio_PicBy Peter Kaufman clip_image002

More U. S. Soldiers Committed Suicide than Died in Combat

Obama Authorizes International Assassination Campaign

Great Pacific Garbage Patch Bigger than Continental U. S.

U. S. Schools More Segregated Today than in 1950s

U. S. Department of Defense Worst Polluter on Planet

Have you seen any of these headlines recently? Probably not. Most of these stories went unreported in the mainstream media. Unless you read alternative news sites or you subscribe to non-mainstream magazines or newsletters it is unlikely that you would have heard about any of these stories. And yet, just by their titles they seem to be the kind of stories that should garner more widespread attention.

I learned about these stories through Project Censored. Since 1976, Project Censored has been publishing a list of the top news stories of each year that fail to get the mainstream media coverage they deserve. Project Censored is administered through the sociology department at Sonoma State University in California. Every year, nearly 1000 articles are submitted (or nominated) to Project Censored by citizens around the world. These stories are then reviewed by faculty, students, and community members for inclusion on the yearly Top 25 list.

clip_image004The mission of Project Censored is to: “teach students and the public about the role of a free press in a free society – and to tell the news that didn’t make the news and why.” They try to publicize news stories that are intentionally underreported in the mainstream media due to “political pressure (from government officials and powerful individuals), economic pressure (from advertisers and funders), and legal pressure (the threat of lawsuits from deep-pocket individuals, corporations, and institutions).”

We like to think of the media as an independent source of unbiased news and information. Even some people in the media business like to think of or market themselves like that. But as the articles on the Project Censored website demonstrate, there are many important news stories that never receive headline coverage; in fact, some don’t receive any coverage. What might the reason be for this? Why don’t we receive, as The New York Times motto proclaims: “All the news that’s fit to print”?

One explanation has to do with the recent trend of media ownership. Since about the time Project Censored was started there has been a steady and rapid conglomeration of corporations that control the U.S. media. As you can see from this chart, there used to be well over fifty media companies in the early 1980s. Today, there are just six corporations: Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch's News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, Viacom (formerly CBS), and General Electric (which is not included in the chart below).


Source: Media Reform Information Center

As the chart indicates, we are not just talking about controlling newspaper articles. The scope and reach of these media behemoths goes well beyond what stories reach the nightly news. These six corporations also control the publishers of most books (including textbooks), magazines, music labels, television and radio stations, movie companies, advertising space (particularly billboards), and even photo agencies. In other words, the bulk of the information that most Americans see, hear, and read—and which they then use to inform their social, political, and economic views—comes from just six corporations.

Over 150 years ago, Karl Marx wrote that: “the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production.” In other words, the ideas of the ruling class are the ruling ideas. The fact that only six companies—all of which are among the richest companies in the world—control the bulk of the mainstream information we receive makes you realize that Marx’s words still ring true today.

So what do we do about this? We can use our sociological skills! Sociology teaches us to be critically aware by looking beyond the commonly offered explanations of the mainstream-corporate media. It encourages us to harness our epistemological curiosity so that we question where our knowledge comes from and wonder why it is we know the things we do. It gives us the methodological literacy to figure out the best way to gather research on particular issues. And it promotes an active engagement with the world such that we use our sociological knowledge for the betterment of life on earth.

Keep in mind that Project Censored is just one source of alternative news and it does, undeniably, have a progressive orientation. There are countless other alternative news sites on the Internet from all across the political spectrum. To become better informed about the society in which you live you should explore some of these sites, compare what you are reading on one site with what you read on another site (including in the mainstream press), and then use your sociological imagination to analytically distinguish fact from fiction.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Hidden Headlines: Is Your News Censored?:


I find it really disgusting that money controls the media and decides what the average citizen should hear and what they shouldn't. Censorship is something I've been researching A lot of people in the '50's believed that censoring things like comics because they believed it would help in the effort of making teens less delinquent; this on the other hand didn't do much in helping to make teens less violent and unlawful. Money runs a lot of things but media should be an exception in my opinion I think the well read and intelligent people who want to volunteer in educating the world should run the media so it would be without bias. I'm not really sure these 5 corporations motives but censorship did not help in the past and it will not help now. We need open minded and diverse media today.

If the media believes that censoring information will prevent its viewers from having violent tendencies by keeping the reality of violence hidden, they likely will be proven wrong. Teenagers are influenced in some way by media but not fully. It is their choice to be delinquent, not the media's. So censoring news is ineffective and only keeps the readers from knowing the truth about what goes on in their community.

Teenagers are very much influenced by what they see because they arn't fully grown into their idenity. When it comes down to it Teenagers make their own chocies in their life but that doesn't mean that the choices aren't influenced by the ouside, which in this case is media violence.

Its been said that power lies in numbers and in this case six corporations, Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch’s News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, Viacom, and General Electric have all the media power. Clearly six is not a big number but when you think about the money and resources these media outlets have and start to put a number on their assets, we quickly realize their influence is greater that the mom & pop media outlets, exponetially. I agree with the author when he says, “Karl Marx’s words still ring true today. Marx argued that that only way to change the status quo was for the masses to attain class-consciousness, or revolutionary consciousness. This can only happen when people recognize how society works and challenge those in power (Ferris & Stein, 2012).

I think that it's terrible how nowadays we're resorting to censoring EVERYTHING. Including the newspapers and whatnot. Everything started out so wonderful with "freedom of speech" and "freedom of press" and so on, but now it's just, "freedom to obey".

Actually, I have read some of these stories in pretty mainstream media outlets.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Become a Fan

The Society Pages Community Blogs

Interested in Submitting a Guest Post?

If you're a sociology instructor or student and would like us to consider your guest post for please .

Norton Sociology Books

The Real World

Learn More

Terrible Magnificent Sociology

Learn More

You May Ask Yourself

Learn More

Essentials of Sociology

Learn More

Introduction to Sociology

Learn More

The Art and Science of Social Research

Learn More

The Family

Learn More

The Everyday Sociology Reader

Learn More

Race in America

Learn More


Learn More

« Science, Resistance and Cognitive Dissonance | Main | Culture (a)Drift »