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About Newswatch CanadaBlindspots in the news agenda

Don't forget to check out the NewsWatch '97 press release.

Filters and blindspots in the news agenda

Our annual list of the most under-reported news stories (produced under the rubric of Project Censored Canada) reflected an effort to provoke public debate and to highlight potential blindspots in Canada's news agenda. The list was a helpful way to attract media and public attention to the issue of filters in the news system.

At the same time, we recognize its limitations as a research tool. Although we have tried conscientiously to apply a set of explicit research criteria and to draw upon the expertise of a diverse national panel, some critics still suggest our past Top 10 lists of under-reported news stories carry too much 'left wing' ideological freight, or employ a method too subjective, thereby leaving the project 'open to manipulation' by special interest groups. Others have suggested that stories which received no coverage at all could not be considered for our Top 10 list. Most important in our view, the list does not in itself identify general patterns of omission in the news.

Meeting these challenges head-on, beginning in 1996 we expanded our approach - moving beyond our traditional Top 10 list to a more rigorous and systematic analysis of 'blindspots' in the Canadian news media. What possible explanations do researchers propose as a means of understanding why some issues, events or concerns are not selected as news? Our response to this fundamental question has been to develop and begin testing an 'inventory of propositions' concerning omissions from the news, all part of our ongoing work to develop a better understanding of what makes the news media tick.

These are drawn from research conducted by students of a special seminar at SFU, who each year spend the Spring semester researching and testing hypotheses about the news agenda in Canada. What follows are the results of these efforts.

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