How Chevron uses black arts PR to whitewash its excesses.

Guardian: “Mike Aldax has been called a corporate prostitute, a propagandist for big oil, an apologist for pollution, Voldemort and more. But he’d rather you call him a journalist.”
“Every morning, after all, he drives across the Golden Gate bridge to Richmond, a gritty town on San Francisco bay, and spends the day seeking out local stories, interviewing people, attending events and then writing them up for a news site called the Richmond Standard.
….Aldax, 36, who previously worked as a reporter at the San Francisco Examiner and Bay City News, is a one-man news operation: he is the sole writer and editor of the Richmond Standard, which launched in January.
….There’s a catch. The $240bn oil giant Chevron entirely funds the site, and Aldax is employed by a public relations firm, Singer Associates, which is paid to improve Chevron’s image.
Critics say the site is an audacious attempt to disguise propaganda as news and manipulate public opinion.
Chevron has run a big and at times controversial refinery in Richmond for over a century. In 2012 it blew up.
The green-tinged Progressive Alliance which runs the city council is suing Chevron, citing neglect and lax oversight. Relations between the company and city hall are toxic.
The company waged a $3m effort to replace its critics with pro-Chevron candidates in this week’s elections – an unprecedented amount for this city of 107,000 people. It didn’t work: progressives won the four council seats, including the mayorship, which were up for grabs.
The Richmond Standard played a controversial role in the election and is set to continue as a unique voice in the community.
….US newsrooms have shed thousands of jobs over the past decade, according to the American Society of News Editors. Public relations, on the other hand has thrived: for every working journalist there are now 4.6 PR people, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, up from 3.2 a decade ago.
….Richmond’s vice-mayor, Jovanka Beckles, a member of the Progressive Alliance, gave a harsher verdict: “It’s solely a marketing strategy to distort and distract from the real news. It’s part of the way Chevron bullies this city.”
The refinery was built by Standard Oil in 1902 and contributed jobs, taxes, infrastructure – and pollution – which created an ambivalent relationship with the largely African American and Latino population.
….Beckles accused Chevron of “dropping a metaphorical nuclear bomb” in its failed attempt to install a friendlier council. The Richmond Confidential tracked the lavish spending on billboards, mailers and television and online advertising.
….Critics accuse Aldax of inaccuracies, or worse. He wrote that Beckles, the vice-mayor, made a “verbal assault” on homophobic hecklers during a council meeting. Other outlets cast her as the victim. Another of Aldax’s pieces depicted climate change activists as rowdy bong-smokers.
During Tuesday’s election he ran a story, citing several sources, about “widespread reports of voter intimidation” by Green party representatives.
Aldax said there was a tradition of companies bankrolling newspapers dating back to the railway barons. That would not mollify critics, he lamented. “Being called a prostitute is hard. It can make you wonder about your career”.”