Campus: Sonoma State University -- June 2, 2004

Project Censored lists top ten junk food news stories

Project Censored at Sonoma State University has named it's top ten most frivolous, over-reported news stories of the year.

"We call this list Junk Food News because it fills up the American airways and newsstands with celebrity gossip and meaningless coverage of the unimportant, " says Peter Phillips, director of Project Censored.

"Famous lives provide us with an entertainment rush and a false reality that radiates in comparison to the darkness of war, business fraud, and government repression."

This year's selections were voted on by the 200 students, faculty and media researchers who work with Project Censored, and hundreds of other people world-wide who are members of the weekly independent news listserv at www.projectcensored.org.

This year's Junk Food News story awards go to: 1. Janet Jackson and her Super Bowl exposure 2. Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez's breakup 3. The Hilton heiresses 4. Britney Spears marriage and next-day annulment to childhood friend Jason Alexander and 5. Martha Stewart's trial .

"The exposure of Jackson's breast shocked the nation and set off a Federal Communications Commission tizzy over a nipple. The vulgarity and sleaziness of the rest of the halftime show seemed to slither back into the dark without a stir,'' Phillips said.

Ben and J-Lo were "making news even before they called their relationship off,'' Phillips said.

"Paris Hilton gets the most attention from her sex video to her TV program,'The Simple Life.' It seems that many actually do care about a rich girl who doesn't shop in Wal-Mart,'' Phillips said.

"It seems that every move of Britney's is made to create attention. The corporate media loves using her to build titillated viewership,'' Phillips said.

Martha Stewart's "ever-present face in our court system'' was a high-profile case that was "dragged out by the media,'' he also said.

The remaining top ten in the 2003-4 list are Britney and Madonna's kiss, the wedding of "The Bachelorette'' couple Trista and Ryan, the "American Idol'' show, the last episode of "Friends'' and the relationship between Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore.

"While there is nothing wrong with enjoying entertainment, there is always an opportunity cost that affects public access to important news stories about the critical issues in our lives," says Phillips.

"We believe that it is crucial to democracy to have a healthy media, a media that is able to inform on critical events and not just serve as a means of diversion."

Peter Phillips is a Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University and Director of Project Censored. Joni Wallent and Ambrosia Pardue are research interns for Project Censored.

Contact: Peter Phillips, (707) 664-2500


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