On Dec. 28, Global Exchange Ventura County sponsored Peter Phillips of Project Censored at the Newbury Park Branch of the Thousand Oaks Library. To an audience of about 50 people from various corners of the county, Phillips talked about his program, a media research group that is run through the sociology department of Sonoma State University’s School of Social Sciences, which closely monitors the news published in newspapers, independent journals and newsletters. Annually, Project Censored compiles a list of 25 news stories that were under-covered or completely ignored by mainstream media.
Beginning in 1976, under the leadership of Carl Jensen, the program consisted of one classroom of about 25 media watchers. These students kicked around ideas about what the media covered or failed to cover that year, presumably from a sociological perspective, in order to find a project to pursue. The program has since grown to two classes each semester with 30 to 40 interns, plus 200 faculty and other professionals evaluating stories that the students research.
The yearly product of this activity, a publication entitled Censored (2006 this year), comes out in a book published by the Seven Stories Press. This year the top story was the Bush administration’s elimination of openness in government.
Highlighting the need for non-industry review, Phillips began his talk by discussing the unprecedented consolidation and homogenization of major news outlets. Currently, he said, only 10 major corporations control the news going to 85 percent of the population. “We can’t call it mainstream anymore,” he said, “because it doesn’t reflect the mainstream of America but of P.R. firms who create and manage the news. It is prepackaged.”
Phillips moved quickly to discuss distortions in news coming from the Middle East, particularly Iraq, praising the dispatches of independent journalist Dahr Jamail (available by podcast at www.truthout.org). He also discussed the dangers and intimidations that face truth-telling journalists who risk unemployment and sometimes financial ruin. This year’s book is dedicated to Gary Webb, an investigative reporter who exposed the CIA Contra drug links and was subsequently fired, driven from his profession and, eventually, to suicide.
Phillips also recounted his belief that the official results of the 2004 election were statistically impossible. Phillips based his remarks about the 2004 election on the high numbers involved in the exit polling (13,000), the conservative firm doing the polling, the size of the margin shown by those claiming to vote for Kerry (projected five million) and the size of the Bush victory (three million). He also mentioned that only in those states (excepting one) that used voting machines without a paper trail was there a discrepancy between the reported outcome and the exit polls, a fact that made him suspect the demonstrably vulnerable machines had produced the flawed result.
Phillips responded to a question from the audience, when a member asked if he saw himself as a liberal. He stated that progressive was the better term than liberal in this context. Historically, he said, the Progressives were more likely to be Republicans like his grandfather, people who believed in honest government and felt the press should provide citizens with the information needed to make good decisions, not to serve corporate interests.
Project Censored can be accessed at www.projectcensored.org.
— Margaret Morris
Change is in the wind
A brand spankin’ new study that outlines findings and insights about Ventura County’s farm workers and growers will be unveiled late this month by the Workforce Investment Board of Ventura County.
The unveiling is scheduled to take place at a conference called “Cultivating a Better Future for Ventura County Agriculture,” where a panel discussion composed of experts such as farm operators and labor organization representatives stands to shed further light on the findings.
The authors of the study — Dr. Bill Watkins of the University of California, Santa Barbara Economic Forecast Project; and Dr. Charles Maxey of California Lutheran University — will discuss “perceptions of employers and farm workers on labor market conditions and trends, current workforce issues and skills sets now necessary in the agricultural industry,” according to information released by the WIB.
“This study explores concerns like increasing land costs and international price competition,” says Lynn Jacobs, WIB chair. “The results will help us educate ourselves and assist local producers in overcoming these challenges.”
Research shows that local farmers are losing business to international producers of generic crops and, in order to stay competitive, are choosing more labor-intensive and specialized forms of farming — forms that will require laborers to learn new skills. The study provides strategies to help workers make the transition.
“Even when producers strategically adapt to a market change, previous studies have shown that some worker dislocation is likely,” Jacobs says.
The event will include a keynote address by Rick Nahmias, director and producer of the KCET documentary, “The Migrant Project: Contemporary California Farm Workers.”
The event is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Jan. 26 at Seminis, Inc., 2700 Camino del Sol, Oxnard. Admission is $55, and includes a copy of the study and breakfast. For more information, call (805) 652-7684 or visit www.wib.ventura.org.
— Stacey Wiebe
Big League Dreams may be further away from becoming a reality for Oxnard residents.
An appeal filed by members of the Saviers Road Design Team, a local citizens group that monitors city decisions, could delay the building of a privately owned 25-acre baseball park in College Park by a few weeks or possibly months should it be upheld by the City Council, says Chris Williamson, associate planner in the city of Oxnard’s Planning and Environmental Services Department.
The appeal, which was filed on Jan. 3, is based on claims that letters submitted by the Design Team in reaction to the project’s draft environmental impact report were not adequately responded to by the Planning Commission. Under the California Environmental Quality Act, the commission is required to allow the public 40 days to express concerns with the draft EIR and must include their responses in the final report, which was approved by the City Council in December.
According to the appeal, the report does not accurately address parking and traffic concerns resulting from the construction of the $15.2 million ballpark, nor does it discuss possible mitigation as a result of allegedly violating the guidelines for the use of federal funding.
The City Council is required to hear the appeal 30 days after its filing. Because no meeting is scheduled within the next month, though, the appeal won’t be heard until Feb. 7. At that meeting, the City Council will hear presentations from both sides and decide whether to sustain the Planning Commission’s certification of the EIR or to uphold the appeal, which would stop the city from going forward with the project until a new report is certified.
No date for groundbreaking has officially been set, Williamson says.
— Matthew Singer