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It is what it is, so you’d better learn to deal with it

Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019

* From the Guardian

In March this year, the small Illinois town of Hinsdale, in the western Chicago suburbs, was facing a crisis.

The village’s district had a funding shortfall, and a referendum was scheduled to determine whether $140m could be pumped into Hinsdale’s schools.

The referendum was hotly contested – an organized, enthused Vote Yes campaign was pushing hard for people to back the vote. It looked like the referendum might deliver a yes verdict.

Enter Locality Labs, a shadowy, controversial company that purports to be a local news organization, but is facing increasing criticism as being part of a nationwide rightwing lobbying effort masquerading as journalism.

The company, with two other linked organizations, was responsible for the Hinsdale School News, a print newspaper that was distributed around Hinsdale voters. The paper had the Hinsdale high school district logo, and the look of a journalistic organization. But, as the Hinsdalean reported, the “newspaper” was stuffed full of articles, mostly byline-free, which had a distinct anti-referendum skew.

“The depths of what they went to were pretty egregious,” said Joan Brandeis, who was part of the Vote Yes Campaign.

“This was purposely done to mislead people into thinking that was a publication from the district.”

We’ve talked about Locality Labs several times. These are the Proft papers run by Brian Timpone.

There’s this thing called the First Amendment, so the papers cannot be regulated or put out of existence. It’s possible, perhaps, to argue that some of them should be regulated like campaign committees, but that’s a dangerous path to tread. I mean, if you make that argument, are you gonna require the Tribune editorial board to register, too? Good luck getting that done.

The Hinsdale referendum passed, so Timpone’s paper didn’t have a deciding influence.

But this should be a lesson for everyone. When campaigns are being planned, the possibility that one or more of these Locality Labs outlets could start engaging is something that should be factored into the equation. And whining to an overseas news outlet is not a plan.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - John Lopez - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 11:40 am:

    Just another example of voters needing to apply discernment with everything & everyone, especially as the elections are closer.

  2. - Long Time R - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 11:43 am:

    They circulate them in Orland Park were one of Profts flunky is the Mayor. They used them recently to defend the mayor for trying to close a homeless center housed in a Church.

  3. - cover - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 11:49 am:

    = The paper had the Hinsdale high school district logo =

    That’s probably the most objectionable part of that “newspaper”. Otherwise, whatever you may think of Proft, as Rich says, “There’s this thing called the First Amendment”.

  4. - Boone’s is Back - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 11:50 am:

    Yes the papers are misleading. However this is a very one sided story. The district and yes campaign were very deceptive. After promising not to spend money on an Olympic sized swimming pool and wording the bond referendum incredibly broadly, it sounds like now the district will be moving forward on the pool. That’s worse to me than proft’s rag.

  5. - Streator Curmudgeon - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 11:55 am:

    Let’s call them what they are: propaganda.

    Sadly, some voters believe that “if it’s printed in the paper, it must be true,” even if the “newspaper” is a fly-by-night political organ disguised as legitimate journalism.

    Warning bells should go off when a new “newspaper” springs up and seems to cover only one issue. It may give a local address on its masthead, but that doesn’t make it legitimate.

    Well, we have freedom of the press in this country, but this carpetbagging propaganda must be effective or publishers wouldn’t be spending money on it.

  6. - lake county democrat - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 11:55 am:

    Let the voter beware. Use of the logo might have been a trademark infringement…

    On the other hand, I really dislike these off-year school referendums. The thinking behind them seems to be “we’ll get the parents to show up to vote for them, and a lot of the knee-jerk vote-against-anything-tax-related voters won’t show up because there’s no contested presidential/reps/gov/etc. on the ballot.

  7. - Not a Superstar - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 11:56 am:

    == The district and yes campaign were very deceptive. ==

    Lol. Google “alumni fundraising $1.6 million for pool” — you’ll learn a lot more than you will in your Dan Proft-inspired bubble.

  8. - phenom_Anon - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 12:26 pm:

    People stop buying the paper, less readers mean businesses don’t want to buy ads, the paper becomes unprofitable so it gets shut down. So there’s no paper, until it becomes profitable to print a paper for someone else.

    There small group of people left who want to read the paper are older, are more easily swayed by tax arguments, and they reliably vote.

  9. - @misterjayem - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 12:28 pm:

    On the other hand, I really dislike these off-year school referendums. The thinking behind them seems to be “we’ll get the parents to show up to vote for them, and a lot of the knee-jerk vote-against-anything-tax-related voters won’t show up”

    Elections, amirite?

    Nobody’s ever happy when the voters who agree with them are out-numbered by the voters who disagree with them.

    – MrJM

  10. - GA Watcher - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 12:32 pm:

    As a resident of High School District 86, I can tell you that both sides of the referendum question played loosely with the facts. I say this not to absolve the Hinsdale School News for the inaccuracies and truth stretching which it “reported”. But people ought to know the Vote Yes crew was just as egregious.

  11. - Avg.Joe - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 12:33 pm:

    Regulated like a campaign committee? That sounds like what President Cullerton referred to last week.
    It’s hard to imagine how that could be done or who would do it.

  12. - Blue Dog Dem - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 12:40 pm:

    Seriously. School money on a swimming pool? What’s next? Tournament bass fishing? Skeet/trap?

  13. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 12:45 pm:

    This is basically what Cambridge Analytica did in foreign countries. There are obviously a lot of First Amendment concerns, but I think there should be consequences for people when they establish fake news (sorry, it is such a loaded term but apt here) systems for the sole purpose of spreading disinformation.

  14. - Hamlet's Ghost - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 1:12 pm:

    I tend to think the Guardian is more interested in reporting on why their American cousins have become so daffy than they actually care about the swimming pool.

  15. - @misterjayem - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 1:23 pm:

    Upset about schools with swimming pools?

    Wait’ll you learn about football fields‼

    – MrJM

  16. - City Zen - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 1:24 pm:

    Is this what forced IEA to dump $100,000 into a local bond referendum?

  17. - Boone's is Back - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 1:25 pm:

    ===Lol. Google “alumni fundraising $1.6 million for pool” — you’ll learn a lot more than you will in your Dan Proft-inspired bubble.===

    From your article…

    ===Despite the fact that voters rejected a referendum request for $166 million in November, which included a 10-lane, 40-yard pool at Central and a six-lane, 40-yard pool at South, that is what the school board decided by a 5-2 vote to build at its Sept. 12 meeting.===

    The issue isn’t whether to use bond proceeds to build a new 8 lane or 10 lane swimming pool. The voters voted down the referendum because they don’t want to spend more in taxes to build any new pool.

  18. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 1:27 pm:

    You can choose to realize these papers exist to tamp down realities or honesty and do nothing, and hope your plan carries the day….

    You can choose to engage each and every trolling, chasing your tail and at times diminish what you’re trying to say…

    You can pick and choose your battles against the phony, try to use nuance and thoughtful responses…

    But… you’re gonna haveta choose a way about this. It’s not going away.

  19. - lake county democrat - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 2:04 pm:

    MrJM - Not in my case. I’ve yet to vote against a school referendum, but that doesn’t mean I can’t want to have them at convenient times, just like you can want to have them easy to register for, easy mechanisms to vote (early voting, mail voting), etc.

  20. - Not a Superstar - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 2:15 pm:


    First you said voters didn’t want an Olympic sized pool. When I showed you that alumni were fundraising to build more lanes for a 40-yard (ie, non-Olympic sized) pool, you responded that voters rejected *any new pool*. Respectfully, that’s not true. The Yes on 86 website is still up and makes clear that “Most of the cost reduction [for the second referendum] comes from *reducing* the size of both pools.” You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.

    I know a high school pool is really parochial for this website, but Boone’s casual misstatements exemplify the result of Proft-style disrespect for honest debate.

  21. - Lefty Lefty - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 4:59 pm:

    Guardian US is based in New York and does American news with a left slant in the US. I know this because it covered some former Gov. Walker stuff in WI and a relation had significant back-and-forth with a Guardian reporter based in the Midwest at that time.

  22. - A State Employee Guy - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 8:26 pm:

    I used to read Splinter and I read this blog, so clearly I can’t throw stones re: biased journalism.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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