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 Junk Food News: Entertainment Media 2004

By Peter Phillips, Joni Wallent and Ambrosia Pardue

"We are the best entertained least informed society in the world." Neil Postman

Project Censored at Sonoma State University in California holds an 
annual competition to select the 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. 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 
our weekly independent news listserv at

The dubious honor of this year's number one Junk Food News story goes 
to Janet Jackson and her Super Bowl exposure. It shocked our nation - 
so the corporate media claimed - and set off a Federal Communications 
Commission tizzy over a nipple. The vulgarity and sleaziness of the 
rest of the half time show seemed to slither back into the dark 
without a stir. It seems that a nipple being exposed is more 
important than the real, life-shattering issues of our nation and 

Coming in at Number 2 is Ben and J. Lo's breakup. They were making 
news even before they called their relationship off. They graced the 
covers of magazines and tabloids, and had people waiting anxiously 
and holding their breaths over what the couple would do next. The 
"rock" that "Jenny from the block" had sat pretty on her finger for 
only so long. Even though Ben and J. Lo are over, they have not faded 
from memory or from corporate news celebrity gossip.

At Number 3 are the Hilton sisters. Few people had heard of them 
before this past year, but now it seems they are everywhere in 
mainstream media. Paris gets the most attention from her sex video, 
The Simple Life. It seems that many actually do care about a rich 
girl who doesn't shop in Wal Mart.

Britney Spears makes this year's list again, coming in at Number 4 
with her marriage to childhood friend Jason Alexander. The two were 
married on a Saturday in Las Vegas, and had their marriage annulled 
the next Monday.  It seems that every move of Britney's is made done 
to create attention. The corporate media loves using her to build 
titillated viewership.

Amazingly, Martha Stewart made the top five spot with her 
ever-present face in our court system. Whether or not Martha was 
innocent or guilty, this high profile case was dragged out by the 
media and her products can still be found on the shelves at Kmart.

Rounding out the top ten for 2003-4 Junk Food News list are, Britney 
and Madonna's kiss, Trista and Ryan's Wedding, American Idol, The 
last episode of Friends, and Ashton and Demi.
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. Junk Food News 
consumes the limited time and space for news stories in the corporate 
media. Entertainment becomes news. Reality TV is news at 6:00 PM.

Project Censored believes 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.

A special Thanks to Dr. Carl Jensen for creating the Junk Food News 
annual Awards.
Peter Phillips Ph.D.
Sociology Department/Project Censored
Sonoma State University
1801 East Cotati Ave.
Rohnert Park, CA 94928

Project Censored


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