As the closures of newspapers leave Americans struggling for information, Chevron has swooped in to serve up a mixture of local news and propaganda.
The banner at the top of Permian Proud does state that the site is “sponsored by Chevron”. But at first glance, the sponsorship seems like a benevolent grant. On Wednesday Permian Proud’s front page included stories about an upcoming air show and a storytelling workshop – typical local newspaper fare.
But interspersed with news of livestock sales and processions is a series of stories lauding Chevron’s achievements in the Permian Basin, a sprawling area covering parts of west Texas and east New Mexico, where the company operates numerous oil fields.
“New solar energy field in Permian Basin to lower Chevron’s carbon intensity” is one. Another headline reads: “Independent analysis gives Chevron highest environmental rating in Permian Basin.”
We’re already in a misinformation, disinformation wildfire in this country. What this is doing is fanning the flames of that wildfire of disinformation that is already infecting our civic debate.
As newspapers continue to close, more companies, or political groups, will move into the local news industry.
In a self-governed democracy, accurate news and information is the oxygen for citizens to be able to make good decisions at the ballot box, or good decisions about how to live their daily lives.
So the implications of this are very serious for our democracy and for the country.