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The “communications platform” stirs controversy

Monday, Jul 25, 2016

* This is a pretty good story, so you should read the whole thing. But there’s something missing

Residents received the Illinois Valley Times in their mailboxes this week.

Despite its local name, the new publication has no presence here. Its parent organization, which is largely funded by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, is based in Chicago. One of its writers lives in New York.

The newspaper includes no mailing address or phone number and gives readers no information about who runs it, though it provides an email address and Twitter account.

The local version ran stories critical of state Rep. Andy Skoog, D-La Salle and complimentary of his opponent, Jerry Long, a Streator Republican. The eight-page paper includes four stories involving the candidates in the 76th House District, which consists of all or parts of La Salle, Bureau, Putnam and Livingston counties.

One story says Skoog is “part of the Madigan Machine,” referring to House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago. Another touts Long’s blue-collar credentials. Still another features the Republican Party’s assertion Skoog voted for a budget that included higher taxes, which is untrue.

As the story goes on to report, this is one of Dan Proft’s newspapers published by Liberty Principles PAC.

* And then there’s this story

The Illinois Press Association isn’t sure it really is a newspaper — they think it might be a political advertisement and are interested in finding out who’s behind it.

Don Craven, general counsel for the Illinois Press Association, said throughout the campaign season he was alerted to a series of publications crafted to look like newspapers. These would seem to have all come from the same source: The website for the Illinois Valley Times includes links to 13 sister publications such as “Rock Island Today” and the “Sangamon Sun.”

“They came out hot and heavy before the primary,” Craven said. “They did the same thing in several of the legislative districts during the primary.”

Each contains a smattering of news stories by Carol Ostrow, a reporter based not in Illinois but in upstate New York. Beyond those byline stories, however, the publications contain unsigned editorials and articles purporting to cover government bodies but simply reproducing meeting agendas open to the public.

The Illinois Valley Times clearly shows an editorial bias toward Republicans, such as statehouse candidate Jerry Long of Streator; but it wasn’t clear to Craven or other media watchdogs whether the publications are funded in full or in part through campaign contributions.

* So, what’s missing? Well, a couple of things. First, remember this from my recent newspaper column?

Gov. Bruce Rauner has been touring Illinois to talk about his new “messaging.” He’s quite excited about his “messaging” plans, telling one reporter that if he could do anything differently about his tenure so far it would be to improve the way he gets his message out to voters. Yep. That’s really what he said. […]

Rauner actually complained in Champaign last week about how “There’s no substance in the reporting,” before saying he was in the process of creating his own communication platforms to push his messaging directly to Illinoisans.

* The 1st Amendment likely protects Proft and Rauner, as well it should. But I can’t help but also wonder if local newspaper publishers might not relish the “competition.” Proft made a wise decision not to sell any advertising, including local, which would’ve irked those publishers to no end. Still, I could see some interesting times ahead.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

17 Comments
  1. - Michelle Flaherty - Monday, Jul 25, 16 @ 10:31 am:

    Wait til they start getting in the public notice business. The the press assoc will freak out.


  2. - Honeybear - Monday, Jul 25, 16 @ 10:31 am:

    Pretending to be something you’re not is

    (Queue favorite word in three, two, one)

    Perfidy


  3. - Huh? - Monday, Jul 25, 16 @ 10:37 am:

    My daughter got a copy of this rag in the mail. It was clear that the “reporting” was slanted to the 1.4% rhetoric. I tried to find the publisher information but there was nothing printed to claim responsibility for the political waste of ink.


  4. - Honeybear - Monday, Jul 25, 16 @ 10:41 am:

    Pravda-like


  5. - Honeybear - Monday, Jul 25, 16 @ 10:42 am:

    Pense tried this in Indiana only he blabbed about it and they dropped it. Rauner won’t make that mistake. But still this is Pravda.


  6. - Anonymous - Monday, Jul 25, 16 @ 10:49 am:

    So who gets to decide what is and isn’t a “real newspaper”? A publication showing bias doesn’t count? That will cut out a lot of publications…


  7. - Formerly Known as Frenchie M - Monday, Jul 25, 16 @ 10:58 am:

    Pence oughta love this. At one point he tried a state-run paper in Indiana. Went as far as having style guides and sample articles drafted.

    Lots of pushback. He abandoned the idea in Jan 15.

    Obviously, the difference here is the dark publisher — and the lack of direct state involvement. But the sentiment is the same.

    Problem is, people buy this stuff. They like it. The wackier the better. It won’t shift independents, but it surely does fire up the base.

    It’s chum for the low-info, “I already know who I’m gonna vote for anyway” voters.


  8. - Spliff - Monday, Jul 25, 16 @ 11:02 am:

    In addition to the pro jerry long info an random anti-teacher articles and snippets of right leaning stories is an article by Ruth De Jauregui that wrote an article about census data for Illinois an an article about IDOC and Rauner touring their headquarters which is complete with photo. Wonder if those state employees signed off on their photos being used by Proft?


  9. - Shemp - Monday, Jul 25, 16 @ 11:20 am:

    Well at least this mailing doesn’t come from franking or other tax funded postage account.


  10. - Doug Simpson - Monday, Jul 25, 16 @ 11:42 am:

    @shemp:

    Thankfully big corporations like tronc or Fox News dont get any corporate welfare!


  11. - The Captain - Monday, Jul 25, 16 @ 12:07 pm:

    Seems like a waste of money, the Trib ed board already does this for free.


  12. - Stuff Happens - Monday, Jul 25, 16 @ 12:30 pm:

    If we get one, I’m sure it will be put to good use in the bird cage.


  13. - Mama - Monday, Jul 25, 16 @ 1:29 pm:

    Willfully reporting incorrect information in the media or mailers should be illegal.


  14. - Winnin' - Monday, Jul 25, 16 @ 1:58 pm:

    The paper should be reported either as an in-kind contribution or it should say “paid for by or on behalf of Bruce Rauner’s PAC. Our report is (or will be) filed with the ISBE)
    No excuses.


  15. - stateandlake - Monday, Jul 25, 16 @ 3:23 pm:

    The Lake County Gazette for the week of July 3-9 appeared in my home mailbox last week. It has the same lead story as the one pictured in the article above, and includes a color centerfold about how Chicago Schools spend taxpayer funds, based on an analysis of spending at three CPS schools. It lists the towns of Libertyville, Cary, Barrington, Lake Zurich, Mundelein and Long Grove under the masthead. Cary is not even in Lake County…


  16. - South Illinoisian - Monday, Jul 25, 16 @ 3:54 pm:

    I got one of these back in the spring before the primary. I saw it for what it was right away but I’m not sure that those that don’t follow politics as closely would recognize it right away, especially if they agree with the content.


  17. - Anon221 - Monday, Jul 25, 16 @ 7:37 pm:

    Ostrow- “I have absolutely no connection to the campaigns,” she said. “I’m instructed by my editor. They give me sources.”

    Those three sentences say it all! It really should not have taken this long for this dreg to have more sunlight on it. More and more people and media need to proclaim pull back the curtain on this type of campaigning.


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