Junk food news reigns supreme

Filmmakers Christopher Oscar and Doug Hecker worked hard to raise awareness about America’s censored media and the junk food news epidemic with their documentary “Project Censored the Movie: Ending the Reign of Junk Food News.”

The film premiered at the Petaluma campus of the Santa Rosa Junior College on Friday, but audiences have viewed it at numerous colleges and film festivals across the nation. The documentary even won an award for the Most Viewed Film at the 2013 Sonoma International Film Festival.

The original Project Censored program was started at Sonoma State University and offered as a class for aspiring investigative journalists. Students work together all year researching the most censored news stories in America. After careful refinement of the stories, the top 25 are published in a book that is released to the public.

One of the producers of the documentary, Oscar, was an investigative journalist himself and discovered the Project Censored initiative in 1999. After reading past volumes of the book and learning more about the goal of the project, Oscar decided a documentary should be made to help further spread awareness.

Oscar knew he couldn’t complete this undertaking on his own, and on his search for assistance he was mistakenly introduced to Hecker, an alumnus of Sonoma State University and former Editor-in-Chief of the Sonoma State STAR newspaper.

He also enrolled in the Project Censored class while at Sonoma State University and was published in the 1997 book. Hecker was excited for the idea of making a documentary about Project Censored and agreed to help produce it.

Project Censored was created to give attention to the “news that didn’t make the news.” Every year, dozens of news stories in America are censored to the public and the American people stay ignorant to news that the corporate media doesn’t want them to hear.

Instead, people are fed what SSU professor and former director of Project Censored, Peter Phillips, would call “junk food news.” This is news that is fed to people but has no nutritional value, and still leaves one hungry after having digested it, figuratively speaking.

One example that was used to illustrate the distortion of media in America was the cover of a 2011 edition of Time magazine. In countries such as Europe and Asia the cover of Time magazine featured a photo of an Arab rebel soldier with the words “revolution redux” typed across the middle of the page.

This cover, of course, was marketing what editors thought would be the most appealing story for readers of that country. The cover Americans were sold was a simple graphic with the title “why anxiety is good for you.”

The point that the filmmakers are trying to convey is that Americans have their priorities wrong when seeking and consuming information.

In the film, an anecdote about a writer for the New York Times was given. The writer explained that he himself was not a censored writer and had the freedom to write his stories about whatever he pleased. However, every one of these stories is handed to his editor, who is the one who decides what gets published.

The editor then bases his decisions on what people want to read in the paper. So as a result, the writer is forced to write his stories on what the general public of America supposedly wants to hear. This is why the airwaves are full of stories about Tiger Woods’ newest girlfriend or Miley Cyrus’ latest shenanigans.

At the end of the screening a short Q&A was held and a few members of the audience were eager to contribute their thoughts. While most volunteers had positive feedback to give as well as insightful questions, a few critics were not as pleased. Some felt as though the film was too strong and was itself a form of propaganda.

The producers handled these select few well and encouraged everybody to visit their website at projectcensored.org to do further research on their own. After all, the main objective of Oscar and Hecker was to help Americans become aware and informed.