Update (8/10/23): On August 8, Ohioans voted down Issue 1, with 57% of voters voting against the ballot measure.
Just before Ohioans were to decide whether to raise the amendment ratification threshold for their state constitution, residents received an eight-page mailer disguised as local news; however, the mailer came from a dark-money group creating “hyperlocal content” with a bias toward support of Issue 1, and local outlets were swift to dispel its credibility.
Issue 1 and right-wing media’s campaign to support it
- Ohio voters are participating in a special election deciding on Issue 1. This August 8 ballot initiative seeks to raise the threshold of amendment ratification from a simple majority to 60%.
- Right-wing media and anti-abortion groups have rallied in support of Issue 1, making many false claims. Right-wing media have claimed that the measure would protect the state constitution from special interest groups and that the state constitution is currently too easy to amend; however, many of these claims have been proven false, as these groups continue their attempts at confusing voters on their way to the ballot box.
Buckeye Reporter sent voters a mailer appearing as a local newspaper in support of Issue 1
- Recent reports from Ohio news outlets detail that an eight-page mailer appearing as a local newspaper had been sent to voters across the state. The mailer, sent from Buckeye Reporter, included mostly positive articles on Issue 1, showing favor toward Republican backers of Issue 1, and claiming those in opposition of the ballot measure are “communists and allies of the LGBTQ community.”
- Buckeye Reporter is owned by Metric Media, a group that has launched locally-branded websites across the country endorsing Republican candidates and policies during election cycles. Metric Media also has ties to both members of the Tea Party movement and to a “Catholic political advocacy group that launched a $9.7 million campaign in swing states against the Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden six weeks before the 2020 election.”
Local Ohio outlets were quick to dispel Buckeye Reporter’s credibility and report on the mailer’s origins
- The Plain Dealer described Buckeye Reporter’s mailer as “a motley combination of content.” The online edition of Plain Dealer also linked to a 2022 report that linked Buckeye Reporter to Metric Media, which has sent similar mailers during previous election cycles. [Cleveland.com, 8/1/23]
- The Plain Dealer also explained that the function of Buckeye Dealer is to “[boost] Republican candidates and causes.” The paper also disclosed that previous efforts by Buckeye Dealer to sway voters was during the 2022 primary election, where mailers were sent to voters supporting Gov. Mike Dewine’s Republican opponents during the race. [Cleveland.com, 8/2/23]
- The Plain Dealer also reported on Buckeye Reporter’s previous mailings during the 2022 primary election. Plain Dealer reported on an analysis from the German Marshall Fund that found that leading up to the Ohio Republican primary election in 2022, Metric Media had published “at least 174 articles mentioning either DeWine or Jim Renacci, one of DeWine’s GOP opponents in the election.” [The Plain Dealer, 8/2/23, via Factiva]
- The Columbus Dispatch described Buckeye Reporter as “‘pink slime journalism,’ which disguises low-quality and often biased journalism as local news.” Columbus Dispatch also explained that, during election years, mailers similar to the one sent by Buckeye Reporter become more prevalent “as the media landscape contracts and more people search for content that echoes their personal views.” [Columbus Dispatch, 8/3/23, via Factiva]
- The Akron Beacon Journal highlighted how Buckeye Reporter criticized and mischaracterized opponents of Issue 1.The Beacon Journal found that John Legend, Grammy-award winning singer and Ohio native, was misrepresented by Buckeye Reporter as disconnected from the issue by referring to him as a “West Hollywood, Calif. Resident” when reporting on his campaigning efforts against Issue 1 in the singer’s home state of Ohio. [Akron Beacon Journal, 8/3/23, via Factiva]
- The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Brian Timpone, the head of Metric Media, is “a conservative businessman, former TV journalist and former Illinois House Republican aide.” Timpone’s organization has received donations from conservative foundations such as DonorsTrust and the National Christian Charitable Foundation. [Cincinnati Enquirer, 8/3/23, via Factiva]
- WCPO interviewed a University of Cincinnati journalism professor who asserted that Buckeye Reporter “exists to advance right-wing and conservative causes.” In the mailer, WCPO also found that criticism of Issue 1 opponents focused on left-leaning groups while omitting the existence of centrist and right-wing opponents, such as the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio. [WCPO, 8/4/23]
- The Times Recorder also reported on Brian Timpone’s involvement with news before founding Metric Media. Times Recorder also reported that Timpone had previously founded a company that came under fire for employing offshore writers to create “hyperlocal content” and publish under fake bylines. [Times Recorder, 8/7/23, via Factiva]