Inside a private portal from GOP campaigns to local news sites - The Washington Post

The top Republican campaigns in Illinois used a private online portal last year to request stories and shape coverage in a network of media outlets that present themselves as local newspapers, according to documents and people familiar with the setup.

Screenshots show that the password-protected portal, called Lumen, allowed users to pitch stories; provide interview subjects as well as questions; place announcements and submit op-eds to be “published verbatim” in any of about 30 sites that form part of the Illinois-focused media network, called Local Government Information Services.

The online portal offers the potential for a new level of collaboration between political operators and certain media outlets — one in which candidates can easily seek to customize news stories without the public’s knowledge. The use of the tactic in Illinois has caught the attention of allies of former president Donald Trump, who have discussed the potential of expanding the operation, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The Illinois-centric outlets form just one part of a broader network of sites, estimated to number more than 1,200 nationally, that the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University has connected to [Brian Timpone, a businessman and former television broadcaster].

In one example, the campaign of Darren Bailey, the Republican running to unseat Illinois’ governor, Democrat J.B. Pritzker, used the portal to pitch a story days before last November’s election about an endorsement from Tulsi Gabbard, the former Democrat and onetime congresswoman from Hawaii, according to documents reviewed by The Post. A story soon appeared in the Dupage Policy Journal, whose website describes itself as a product of Local Government Information Services.

Timpone has spoken to two Trump allies about expanding his operation, according to people with knowledge of the interactions. The discussions suggest that Illinois could be a testing ground for much broader work leading into 2024. One person familiar with his comments said the conglomerate could seek to form “tens of thousands” of new websites.

The goal, one of the people briefed on the project said, is to create “center-right websites” in communities where there is “little or no local news.”

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The Washington Post

Organizations: Republican Party (GOP) 

People: Brian Timpone 

Tags: Journalism Propaganda 

Type: Headlines