Chevron Provides “Community News” to Richmond

by Randy Shaw on March 27, 2014

As many get their news from local websites like BeyondChron, Chevron has gotten into the act: its Richmond Standard provides “community news” to Richmond…. from the oil company’s perspective.

If you come across the website for the Richmond Standard, you’ll find stories about local coffee shops, a skateboarding vandal, the performance of the local high school basketball team, and what’s playing in local theaters. It looks very much like sites like Berkeleyside with one key difference: it is funded and controlled by a powerful corporation whose political donations seek to dominate Richmond politics.

The site states on its front page: “This news website is brought to you by Chevron Richmond. We aim to provide Richmond residents with important information about what’s going on in the community, and to provide a voice for Chevron Richmond on civic issues.”

What “important information” is Chevron conveying? Many articles attack Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and the Richmond Progressive Alliance. These are the folks whose eminent domain strategy to help homeowners avert foreclosure won national praise, and who have challenged Richmond’s longtime role as a Chevron company town.

Oil-Backed Race Baiting

A good example of Chevron’s use of the Richmond Standard to advance its political agenda can be seen in a recent article by mayoral candidate Nat Bates (“Councilman Bates: RPA trying to win black vote”).

What’s so nefarious about a political movement in Richmond trying to win black voters? According to Bates, the problem is that the mayor and two progressive council allies “placed an agenda item to rename Macdonald Avenue after the late Nelson Mandela.”

While Bates “pointed out we all admired the work of Mr. Mandela and his worldwide contributions,” the Chevron-backed candidate saw a troubling motive behind the name-changing plan:

“I highly resent Mayor McLaughlin, Vice Mayor Beckles, Councilman Jael Myrick and RPA attempting to use the renaming of streets for political purposes. If they think this plantation-style politics of renaming Macdonald Avenue in honor of Mr. Mandela will generate African American votes for their RPA candidates this coming November, they do not know the African American community as I know them.”

Renaming a major street after Nelson Mandela is “plantation politics”? I wonder if Chevron advanced such arguments against Oakland’s Mandela Parkway?

Bates never explains why a key city street is named “Macdonald,” but his eagerness to preserve the name becomes clear: “I questioned if anyone knew who Mr. Macdonald was and what his contributions were to Richmond. The mayor interrupted, saying he was a “developer” as if that was negative.”

In Chevron’s world of “community news,” streets should be named after developers rather than legendary fighters for freedom. And anyone who says otherwise is playing “plantation politics” toward black voters.

It used to be that community-based news sites were an alternative to the corporate media. If other big corporations follow Chevron’s lead and us community-based forums to promote their agendas, than the fate of community journalism is even more troubled than we realize.

Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron. He discusses how activists should respond to corporate media in his new book, The Activist’s Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century

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