* 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.