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The Choices We Make

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Here at the Journal, we pride ourselves on being hyper local. With few exceptions, we throw our limited resources into covering what's going on in and around Humboldt County, covering that which lies beyond the Redwood Curtain only as it impacts us. We figure you readers have almost limitless options of where to get national and global news, but precious few to inform you about what's happening immediately around you.

But there's an exception to every rule and, for us, this week's cover story is it. The story, which comes to us via the nonprofit Project Censored, takes a look at 10 national stories that have been woefully underreported over the last year. We think it's an important read and a valuable concept. Especially now.

There's been a whole lot going on in national news and it's gotten frighteningly easy to pass your weeks devouring the news of the day. And for many of us, that news increasingly comes to us through multiple filters that almost ensure we're operating on a news landscape that's tilted toward our beliefs and interests.

Let's break that down for a moment. The first filter is often the reporter (or independent blogger), who generally makes the first call on whether an event or piece of information is interesting and newsworthy, whether it's worth his or her time to report and your time to read. Then that story is approved by an editor, who decides whether to narrow or broaden the focus and ultimately when, where and how the story will be published. From there, news aggregators (like that handy app on your smartphone) and social media outlets (like Facebook and Twitter) use complicated algorithms to get the story to people predisposed to having an interest in it.

This isn't to say that mainstream media is fake news and can't be trusted. Not at all. It's just to point out that, increasingly, we as a nation no longer get a daily newspaper that includes all the news that's fit to print, even the boring-but-important stuff. And for most of us, what news we consume is directly impacted by our interests, political affiliations, friends, family and online purchasing habits. They're all connected. (And for those of you scoffing that you don't get news via Facebook, consider that how a story performs on Facebook is often one of the largest factors in how many clicks it gets online, whether it lands on most-read lists and in your news app.)

And sometimes in this new media world — one in which a single early morning tweet can dominate a news cycle for days — some important stories can get lost, left underreported or not reported at all. That's what this week's cover story is all about.

Founded in 1976 by Carl Jensen at Sonoma State University as a research program focused on media literacy, Project Censored annually compiles the 25 most censored or underreported stories of the year, along with scholarly reports analyzing what is and isn't getting covered and why. It's an important endeavor and one we want to support this year. Give it a read and let us know what you think.

And going forward, remember that the news doesn't come to you in a vacuum. It's reported by real people who make a series of daily decisions guided by their principles, their experience and the organizations they work for. I believe strongly that most of this country's newspaper reporters do this work with no agenda other than a genuine desire to get the facts and tell the stories taking place around them. But sometimes they and our 21st century news infrastructure leave important stories behind.

Thadeus Greenson is the Journal's news editor. Reach him at 442-1400, extension 321, or thad@northcoastjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @thadeusgreenson.

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