Here’s a journalistically troubling development out of California: In the town of Richmond, home to a massive Chevron oil refinery, the company has launched its own “news” site.
The Richmond Standard looks, for all intents and purposes, like a normal local news site (although a lot less cluttered than, say, Oregonlive.com). It’s tagline is even “Community-Driven News.” Except there’s one big difference: It’s funded entirely by the petrochemical giant. Not surprisingly, it features plenty of “reporting” that paints Chevron in a positive light.
Media Matters has a full rundown of what Chevron is up to:
The stories that populate Richmond Standard — posted by former Bay Area newspaper reporter Mike Aldax — largely avoid any in-depth or investigative reporting. Recent articles include things like highlighting McDonald’s offering free small coffees to customers.
The site enters murkier ethical territory in its occasional coverage of corporate parent Chevron. One section is apparently devoted to the company’s position on issues, dubbed, “Chevron Speaks.”
There are only two articles on “Chevron Speaks.” The first announced that the Richmond Standard would be “dedicated to shining a light on the positive things that are going on in the community.” The second, from February of this year, targeted an allegedly “misleading” article in an alternative weekly that was critical of Chevron’s planned refinery modernization project.
But Chevron’s corporate spin isn’t restricted to the “Chevron Speaks” section. Another page titled “Community Views” claims to give readers a place to submit their own content. The only posting mentioning Chevron quotes from a local union member’s remarks at a town meeting offering support for Chevron’s refinery modernization project. The post includes glowing praise of Chevron’s impact in the community:
“It’s my job as community activist to say to you, our city leaders, that Chevron is a participant not just a provider. They provide for nonprofits all over this community. And also they are the main player of Richmond. Without Chevron we’d be like Vallejo – broke. So can’t we all just get along? If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. Our community is tired of falling for anything.”
Other stories invoking Chevron include a post from February which apparently sought to assuage potential concerns about clouds hanging over the local Chevron refinery. The post explained that the clouds were “only steam,” and cited a Chevron employee laying out how the clouds were “similar to what you might see coming out of a tea kettle.”
Another highlights a “much-anticipated” environmental impact report about the company’s refinery modernization project and cites a Chevron spokesperson to claim that the “project is a win-win for Chevron and the community.”
Salon puts it more succinctly in the headline to their post about the Richmond Standard: “Chevron is now running a community news outlet for the community it’s been slowly poisoning.”