The term “fake news” takes on a whole new meaning after Axios highlighted a national Democratic effort to portray propaganda as local news. No evidence exists the Democratic National Party is involved, but the individuals involved are promoting narratives favorable for Democratic candidates.
A company incorporated in Florida last year, Local Report, reportedly created 51 websites designed to appear as local news outlets. The sites bear newspaper-sounding names, such as The Milwaukee Metro Times and The Mecklenburg Herald. The websites focus on swing states like Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.
The enterprise template consists of presenting aggregated local news with some short write-ups about local sports teams and attractions. The meat of the publications is political propaganda that alternates between promoting Democratic midterm candidates and attacking the Republican opponents.
All the Democrat-burnishing sites were linked to Local Report after Axios documented their ownership in each site’s “About Us” section. The sites viewed by RTM no longer display an “About Us” menu selection but a contact email is displayed at the bottom of their sites. The constant part of the mail address is “[email protected],” which is followed by a two-letter state abbreviation, such as “nc” or “wi,” and closes with “.com.”
Mastheads on the sites no longer indicate association with The American Independent (TAI), a Washington-based progressive news outlet, as Axios described. Jessica McCreight, TAI’s executive editor, told Axios her company has a co-publishing agreement with Local Report. The report noted McCreight declined to say if TAI exercises editorial control over the sites.
“It’s been widely reported that where local news outlets shut down, dis- and misinformation grows,” McCreight told Axios in an email. “To combat this challenge, The American Independent has expanded to bring readers local, fact-based news and information on topics and issues that impact their communities.”
The Florida company, Local Report, sent Axios similar-sounding correspondence.
“Our portfolio includes a number of digital news sites across the country that are focused on sharing local news and providing readers with fact-based coverage of their communities,” a company representative said in an email. “We are proud to collaborate with partners like the American Independent that are also committed to bringing the public reliable information that they can trust.”
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