‘Wildfire of disinformation’: how Chevron exploits a news desert

The dire state of local journalism in the US has been well documented in recent years, as the closure of hundreds of local newspapers has created American “news deserts” where people struggle for information on local politics and happenings.

It has also created openings for companies and political groups to swoop in, serving up a mixture of local news and propaganda, with the latest being Chevron, in Texas’ news starved – and oil-rich – Permian Basin.

The launch of Chevron’s “Permian Proud” site, in August, was first reported by Gizmodo.

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.