In putting together the home page of the NewToLasVegas.com blog, I have tried to link (in the left column on a desktop computer, elsewhere on a smartphone) to every legitimate online news and opinion site I can find focusing on Las Vegas or Nevada. My only standards for inclusion: Material has to be posted regularly about the Silver State and that the site be transparent and honest about its mission. So there are links to left-wing sources (Nevada Current), right-wing sources (Muth’s Truths), gossip pundits (Norm Clarke’s Vegas Diary) and a whole lot else including traditional news media like TV stations and daily newspapers and new media like The Nevada Independent and Las Vegas Law Blog. The list under “News/opinion” now tops 60 entries.
Which brings me to one of those entries, a website that’s been out there for a few years by the name of Las Vegas Herald. The flag is nearby. “First published 1900,” it reads. This is so clearly false it’s hilarious. The population of the Las Vegas area in 1900 was just 18 folks, including kids. (If you think I’m making this up, click here to see the actual U.S. Census enumeration that year for Las Vegas, with all the names fitting on a single page.) There were no print news outlets of any kind in Las Vegas–or for that matter even a Las Vegas–until after the railroad from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City came through in 1905. That led to an instant city and three weekly newspapers, the Las Vegas Age, the Las Vegas Times and the Las Vegas Advance. None had Herald in its name.
So what’s the game? As implausible as it may seem, according to recent investigative reports, Las Vegas Herald is part of a network of hundreds of fake media websites linked to a propaganda machine promoting the interests of India over Pakistan. This is really wild stuff.
The “About” section of the Las Vegas Herald website says the organ “takes its name from a newspaper first established in 1900.” It doesn’t say where or that the website has any connection with that newspaper. The copy is obvious baloney.
As for its professed “mission,” here’s what the site says:
Portal generating continuous news coverage of the entertainment capital of the world. Las Vegas Herald is a long-established online newspaper essentially producing breaking local Las Vegas news together with information and updates on the city’s tourism, hospitality and casino resort activities. As a back-up the site closes in on news from around Nevada, the nation and the globe, together with continual global business bulletins. Launched in 2004 Las Vegas Herald, which takes its name from a newspaper first established in 1900, is syndicated through social media networks, RSS feeds, email subscriptions and the availability of the publication’s news content on external websites.
Putting aside the sometimes awkward wording, the website at first glance is an aggregator. It mostly reprints public-domain material like press releases and reports from the U.S-owned Voice of America, probably using computers rather than humans to do the curation. There is the very occasional “staff” article likely written by a non-staffer under a bland pseudonym, like a recent account by “Jay Johnson, Las Vegas Herald” bearing the grammatically challenged headline, “Irans [sic] blasts United States at United Nations Security Council.”
Aside from sports news frequently no more than team press releases, there is virtually no material about Las Vegas.
The “About” section gets even stranger. The site’s publisher is listed as something called Midwest Radio Network, based in Sydney, Australia. Its “affiliate” is given as something called Big News Network, a news agency in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
But according to reports issued over the past year by European disinformation expert EU Disinfo Lab, Big News Network/Midwest Radio Network has hundreds of fake media websites around the world like Las Vegas Herald that are used to amplify favorable coverage about India and negative coverage about Pakistan. Much of this coverage comes from Asian News International, or ANI, a New Delhi-based news agency accused of serving up propaganda in service to the Indian government. The Las Vegas Herald logo is one of scores of logos reproduced in the reports, which carry the running title “Indian Chronicles.”
Indeed, just yesterday, the Las Vegas Herald posted this story from ANI: “EU ban on Pakistan national carrier extended by 3 months.” This is a story of major interest to Las Vegans–NOT!
One EU Disinfo Lab report even said the scheme included falsely reviving 10 defunct nongovernmental organizations to influence world opinion for India and against Pakistan. The two countries have fought three wars against each other since gaining their independence from Great Britain in 1947. The Indian government has denied any wrongdoing. The EU Disinfo Lab report said the misinformation operation was led by the Srivastava Group, a business conglomerate in India.
Part of the m.o., the reports say, is to create hyper-local sites with names and even typefaces in logos that seem like they are legacy newspaper media. The Las Vegas Herald website even lists some of what it calls its “associated sites.” They include the Dallas Sun, Los Angeles Herald, Long Beach Star, Denver Sun and Santa Barbara Post.
A few months back, I sent a message through the Las Vegas Herald website asking the basis for claiming the predecessor outlet was “first published 1900.” As you might imagine, I never got a response. I’m not going to try again, although anyone can post comments below.
So regarding the Las Vegas Herald, since there really is no there there–and certainly little transparency–do I leave up the link on my NewToLasVegas.com website? After pondering this, I decided to label the link–a la Twitter–“FAKE MEDIA” and have it point to this very post. If visitors then want to go to LasVegasHerald.com, they can have at it; at least, they will be forewarned. Eventually, I’ll probably remove the link entirely. There’s already enough fake stuff out there on the Internet.