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Chevron Can Make Its Own Local News

One Donald Draper famously quipped, “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.”

In this week’s case study in heavy-handed message management, Chevron took that one to heart. In fact, it created an entirely new conversation on its own terms.

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The company, which has operated a refinery in Richmond, California for over 100 years, created the Richmond Standard site to present its public with under-reported news stories like this video of high schoolers lifting weights and this more popular entry about an effort to prevent prostitutes from walking through a residential neighborhood on the way to work.

The writers are experienced journalists, but–shocker–there may be a bit of self-interest at play here.

Media Matters never claimed to be the most objective source around, but their point is clear: this isn’t really a news organization. It’s part of an effort to improve Chevron’s reputation among locals after incidents like the summer 2013 refinery fire that required an evacuation of the area.

We should also mention that the site’s main writer works for Singer Associates, a local PR firm that just happens to count Chevron as a client.

It’s true that the site’s front page discloses its Chevron sponsorship and that the first entry in a curiously titled “Chevron Speaks” section declares its intention to cover community stories that fell through the cracks with the financial help of the city’s biggest employer.

Yet the purpose of the only real op-ed yet to appear on the site is to correct “misleading” reports by other publications on Chevron’s ongoing refinery projects:

“The Modernization Project will create a newer, safer, cleaner refinery that is better for the community. The project will reduce air pollution overall, add energy efficiency, and increase safety—all while creating 1,000 construction jobs and pumping millions of dollars into the local economy.”

Are you convinced?

We’re left wondering how Chevron measures ROI on a project like this one.

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