January 18, 2017 — The Local Media Consortium (LMC) is a strategic partnership of local media companies representing more than 1,600 news sites across thousands of communities in the United States. We have banded together to use the latest technologies and partnerships with digital companies to help provide the means for local journalism to thrive.

Every day, we work with heavily vetted, high-quality service providers such as Google, Yahoo! and Monster.com that share our values and priorities, as well as our commitment to working together to foster growth in the digital age.

Ever committed to high-caliber, honest, verified journalism, the LMC and our partners are sickened by the proliferation of “fake news” – or what we prefer to call digital propaganda – spreading across the desktops and mobile devices of millions of Americans. While we believe Americans need to be discerning about where they get their news, there are other forces at play. The ad-tech community has rewarded fake news by paying its creators for each click to these deceitful sites. Some advertisers have been careless about where their ads run. With a reported 62 percent of Americans getting their news from social media, consumers have been vulnerable to misinformation from unreliable news sites. And publishers need to be careful with whom they do business to avoid accepting ads from dubious sites.

The Local Media Consortium is founded on a simple proposition: By leveraging new opportunities for revenue and audience growth, we can better support the sustainability of local journalism. At our core, we are committed to informing the citizenry and preserving the media’s watchdog role without fear or favor.

Here are our positions and principles on the matter of fake news:

REFUSE TO REWARD MISINFORMATION

With businesses spending an estimated $30 billion on non-video online ads alone, we fully understand that there is money to be made in proceeds from clicks. But we know that the ad-tech and publishing industries together have the power to affect the financial incentive outlets receive for spreading falsehoods. We urge our members, partners and the ad-tech industry to more fully vet the companies and organizations with which they do business.

We implore advertisers, marketers and the ad tech community to refuse to reward news from untrustworthy sites. The industry and advertisers have a duty to stop paying click-through commissions to these sites, as well as to content ads and “chum.” We applaud Google’s commitment to develop policies to keep ads off dubious news sites, and we ask others to follow suit. The LMC, whose footprint currently spans 155 million unique monthly visitors, pledges to work with our members and partners to help ensure reputable companies producing genuine news coverage and best-in-industry ad rates are rewarded for those efforts, while banning those pushing propaganda and lies.

SUPPORT LOCAL

The local news media plays a vital role in protecting against misinformation. National media often does not have the local connections and context to cover what is going on outside the top media markets. Policies from the Beltway and statehouses take effect in all cities and towns across the nation, many of them covered by newspapers and TV stations with small but dedicated newsrooms.

We call on consumers and corporate America to recognize the value of reputable, local news organizations. Get to know your local journalists and broadcasters. Follow them on social media. When reading a “news” story, become familiar with its source and confirm that it is associated with a reputable parent news organization by reading its Privacy Policy and About Us descriptions. Confirm that the article and other articles by that news outlet have real comments from real followers dating back many months and years.

ACKNOWLEDGE THAT FAKE NEWS IS NOT NEWS AT ALL

While the content on these dishonest sites may be referred to as “fake news,” we ask that the industry remember that this is not news at all. It should not be put on par with “light news” or “odd news.” Rather it is purposeful misinformation, misdirection and propaganda. We call on our members and the industry as a whole to remind those within the business and political arenas that we have high journalistic standards when it comes to news.

LOOK WITHIN

We ask that our members and partners look within their own newsrooms, websites and social media outlets to determine how they can best protect their constituents from deceptive news. This includes educating readers and viewers about examples of this propaganda through editorial content, and encouraging social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to focus on trustworthy national and local news outlets.

Together, our members and partners comprise a powerful representation of the business, publishing and tech world. With this strength in scale, we ask our members and partners to pledge to combat misinformation stemming from disreputable websites. By refusing to do business with digital propaganda pushers, setting policies and procedures that shut off revenue sources for fake news, educating consumers on how to spot misinformation, and supporting high quality local journalism, we have the strength to quash its reach.

As a strategic partnership of leading local media companies, the Local Media Consortium and our partners are committed to doing all we can to protect against the ills of misinformation. We thank you for taking time to focus on this important issue impacting our communities, and for joining us in our commitment to the sustainability of real journalism.