Monday, July 29, 2019

Democratic group launches partisan 'news' outlets in four states to turn voters against Trump; others in works

A large Democratic "super PAC" (political action committee) is launching a $100 million effort in four states to create and promote news-like stories aimed at getting President Trump out of office. 

"Priorities USA is planning to flood swing states — many of which have lost their local papers — with stories favorable to the Democratic agenda," David Uberti reports for Vice News. "Four 'news' outlets staffed by Democratic operatives will publish state-specific information across social media in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Wisconsin. They’ll also boost content by independent sources."

It could resemble Yellowhammer News, a partisan news outlet in Alabama owned by Republican Party operatives, as well as other pro-Republican outlets like The Maine Examiner. Such efforts take advantage of the loss of independent news outlets to advance agendas disguised as news.

Priorities USA says it's not trying to masquerade as news. Communication Director Josh Schwerin "disputed that Priorities' state-specific social accounts are news outlets, adding that any content the group puts money behind will be labeled as an ad," Uberti reports. "But the upshot of their efforts sound an awful lot like a newsgathering operation in states that happen to have fast-shrinking local media."

Priorities sees the effort as pushback against Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, and other generally Trump-friendly information sources. It's spending serious money on the effort, too: "The Super PAC expects its digital spending to rival many presidential campaigns as it ramps up in the coming weeks, reaching above $1 million a month," Uberti reports. "The group will put tens of millions more toward TV commercials and get-out-the-vote efforts as the campaign drags on."

Mainly, Priorities hopes to produce content that will convince voters that Trump's economic policies aren't helping them. "This should be covered by local news, but local news is dying," Schwerin told VICE News. "Our hope is that we can help fill that hole a bit with paid media while also making it easier for the remaining local outlets to report by providing local angles on national policies with specific facts and people to tell their stories."

Other liberal outfits are pursuing similar strategies. "The progressive digital organization Acronym announced this month that it was investing $1 million over the next two years into a Virginia-focused news site, The Dogwood," Uberti reports. "The outlet will have a point of view in its coverage of state and local political issues, meaning it’s not a one-for-one tradeoff with traditional newspapers." Acronym is considering expanding to Michigan or Arizona next.

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