News Abuse is Project Censored’s term for genuinely newsworthy stories that the establishment press covers in ways that obscure or distort the stories’ most important points. Peter Phillips, the Project’s second director, introduced the term in 2002 as a way to refine the critique of establishment news coverage first developed by Carl Jensen’s concept of Junk Food News.
News Abuse often functions as a form of propaganda, misleading the public about important social issues, deflecting criticism from powerful people and organizations (including governments and corporations), and ultimately reinforcing the status quo and existing inequalities and injustices. “News Abuse” differs from “Junk Food News” in that “junk” news focuses on inconsequential or trivial topics, while “News Abuse” stories address serious topics that deserve wider public attention, but are often subject to spin and distortion. News Abuse and Junk Food News are alike in that both undermine public understanding.
*The above material is partially adapted from Peter Phillips and Project Censored, Censored 2003: The Top 25 Censored Stories (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2002), 196-201. See Phillips and Project Censored’s associate director, Andy Lee Roth, talk about News Abuse in the 2013 award-winning documentary Project Censored the Movie: Ending the Reign of Junk Food News (from the 9-minute mark to 10:30).
Note: From Censored 2003 to Censored 2018, analyses of News Abuse and Junk Food News were presented in a combined book chapter. Since Censored 2019, Junk Food News and News Abuse have been separate chapters in the annual book given their distinct focus and criticism.