Andy Lee Roth, associate director of Project Censored, joined the “Behind the Headlines” interview series to discuss the 2021 edition of the group’s annual Top 25 Most Censored Stories book. As the title suggests, the book covers important stories that are underreported or neglected by the mainstream media.
Founded in 1976, Project Censored is a media literacy group that aims to encourage critical awareness of the press among students, faculty, and the public. The Top 25 Most Censored Stories book is created through a year-long process that begins with students and faculty in Project Censored’s Campus Affiliates program identifying and vetting candidate stories. The process involves several hundred validated independent news stories which are considered as candidates for the list. The stories cover topics that the corporate media either fails to cover entirely, or only covers in a partial or biased way.
In the spring of each year, the process of determining what stories make the cut begins. There are two rounds of voting. The first involves all the faculty and students and Project Censored personnel. The list is narrowed down from several hundred to about three dozen finalists. The final stories go to an international panel of expert judges who determine the top 25 and rank them in order of importance.
Andy explains that the Top 25 list serves as a hook for media coverage of important but underreported stories. However, readers should not get hung up on the specific order of those that make it into the book; each story is important in its own right. The book aims to provide an alternative perspective on the news, which is often dominated by corporate media outlets.
One of the most censored stories Andy discussed with Lee today is a report revealing that the CIA discussed plans to either kidnap or kill Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. The story – which was based on the accounts of over 30 high-level US government officials – revealed that the discussions took place in late 2017 when Mike Pompeo was the director of the CIA. Officials reportedly said that there were no boundaries to the plots against Assange, indicating the level of animus the US government has towards him. The report also revealed that the CIA had launched an unprecedented campaign against Assange. The story shed light on the misinformed narratives of corporate media about Assange and WikiLeaks, with evidence showing that U.S. congressional leaders misunderstand Assange’s nationality and what WikiLeaks does.
The story gained little traction in mainstream outlets. Some of the few to cover it included The Hill and Rolling Stone, while The New York Times made a passing reference to it. Beyond that, there was almost nothing.
Project Censored has an important role to play in promoting critical media literacy, especially among young people who are interested in politics and activism. The group provides a valuable platform for independent journalists and alternative news sources. Its annual book has become something of an almanac or reference book for media studies, and serves as a reminder that there are important stories that the mainstream press neglects. Through its work, Project Censored hopes to inspire readers to engage with critical media literacy and seek alternative sources of news and information.
Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and activist. Camp is the host of Behind The Headlines’ new series: The Most Censored News With Lee Camp. He is a former comedy writer for the Onion and the Huffington Post and has been a touring stand-up comic for 20 years.