Corporate Media Entertains but Fails to Inform

“Paris Hilton’s Symptoms Said to be from Prescription Drug Withdrawal,” was the headline news on Fox News Network on June 13, 2007. This was the 56th headline on Paris Hilton covered by Fox in the previous 30 days. Even the New York Times got in on the Paris Hilton hoopla with a front-page story June 9 entitled “Celebrity Justice Cuts Both Ways for Paris Hilton.”

Regular readers of Project Censored are familiar with our annual list of Junk Food News — in which we select a list of the dumbest, least important, most overplayed stories of the year. Almost certainly, the incarceration of Paris Hilton will feature prominently in our next years Junk Food edition, but it will have to wait until then to be considered.

Meanwhile, here are the Junk Food News stories of Project Censored’s annual April-to-April listing for 2006-07:

1.Brittany Spears has a meltdown
2. Anna Nicole has a baby
3. Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie have a baby and adopt others
4. Jon Benet “killer” is a fraud
5. The rise and fall of OJ Simpson’s book
6. The feud between the Donald and the O’Donnell
7. Miss USA “party girl” drinks and takes drugs
8. Paul McCartney’s Divorce
9. An astronaut wears a diaper to attack her romantic rival
10. Madonna adopts an African baby

Moving up from number seven last year to number one on this year’s Junk Food list is none other than Britney Spears. On February 17, Ms. Spears was photographed in a Los Angeles salon receiving a buzz cut. The corporate media went into frenzied overdrive, offering incessant speculation on why poor Britney might be coming unglued. While undeniably important to thirteen-year-olds, adults might have been interested to hear about the newly released analysis of 2005 census figures showing that nearly 16 million Americans are currently living in deep or severe poverty. Mainstream news anchors had enough time to wonder if Ms. Spears was too young and immature for the pressures of motherhood. Yet, they weren’t able to squeeze in the fact that female-headed families with children account for the lion’s share of the severely poor.

During the recent Paris Hilton exposition the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act, without a peep from Fox or the New York Times. Apparently the corporate media is too busy entertaining us to cover the most serious civil liberties issue in America. The Military Commissions Act of last October made it legal for the President to suspend Habeas Corpus for any person, citizen or not. While Democrats in the Senate are trying to restore this basic legal right, the corporate media seems more concerned with keeping us up-to-date on how much phone time Paris gets while in jail.

On September 7, 2006, Anna Nicole Smith gave birth to a baby girl and everyone held his or her breath for the ultimate piece of the puzzle, who was the father? For those of you who missed it, the birth certificate listed none other than Anna Nicole’s personal attorney Howard K. Stern. Now, for those of you who didn’t miss the Anna Nicole goings-on, here’s what you did miss: A September 2006 report found that the Iraq violent death toll for August was three times larger than the preliminary count. The final tally disproved official US and Iraqi claims that a “security crackdown” had led to a drop in the number of deaths that month.

In the early afternoon of February 8, 2006, Anna Nicole Smith was found unresponsive in her hotel room, rushed to the hospital, and pronounced DOA at 2:49 pm. While this story filled the corporate media in the US, that same week, the former US Ambassador of Iraq failed to explain what happened to $12 billion in newly printed, shrink-wrapped, $100 bills that he had flown to Baghdad, and had since been misplaced.

We are now, in an era, of witnessing corporate media’s complete failure to keep us informed on powerful issues, which concern all Americans. We deserve better and must remedy this situation by building tax supported independent media and returning investigative reporting to the American people.

Peter Phillips is a Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University and Director of Project Censored, a media watchdog group based at Sonoma State University in California. Kate Sims is a staff researcher with Project Censored. SSU students Jocelyn Thomas, Toni Faye Catelani, Jenni Leys, and Christina Carey assisted with research on this op-ed. The full report can be seen at: Read other articles by Peter Phillips, or visit Peter Phillips's website.