How do we at Project Censored identify and evaluate independent news stories, and how do we know that the Top 25 stories that we bring forward each year are not only relevant and significant but also trustworthy? The answer is that every candidate news story undergoes rigorous review, which takes place in multiple stages during each annual cycle. Although adapted to take advantage of both the Project’s expanding affiliates program and current technologies, the vetting process is quite similar to the one Project Censored founder Carl Jensen established more than forty years ago.
Candidate stories are initially identified by Project Censored professors and students, or are nominated by members of the general public who bring them to the Project’s attention. Together, faculty and students evaluate each candidate story in terms of its importance, timeliness, quality of sources, and inadequate corporate news coverage. If it fails on any one of these criteria, the story is deemed inappropriate and is excluded from further consideration.
Once Project Censored receives the candidate story, we undertake a second round of judgment, using the same criteria and updating the review to include any subsequent, competing corporate coverage. We post stories that pass this round of review on the Project’s website as Validated Independent News stories (VINs).
In early spring, we present all VINs in the current cycle to the faculty and students at all of our affiliate campuses, and to our panel of expert judges, who cast votes to winnow the candidate stories from several hundred to twenty-five.
Once the Top 25 list has been determined, Project Censored student interns begin another intensive review of each story using LexisNexis and ProQuest databases. Additional faculty and students contribute to this final stage of review.
The Top 25 finalists are then sent to our panel of judges, whose votes rank them in numerical order. At the same time, these experts—including media studies professors, professional journalists and editors, and a former commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission—offer their insights on the stories’ strengths and weaknesses.
Thus, by the time a story appears in the pages of State of the Free Press, it has undergone at least five distinct rounds of review and evaluation.
Although the stories that Project Censored brings forward may be socially and politically controversial—and sometimes even psychologically challenging—we are confident that each is the result of serious journalistic effort and deserves greater public attention.