NYT Reporter Lavishes Praise on Fake News Entrepreneur Tara McGowan

September 17, 2020

A New York Times tech reporter during a Thursday panel praised the work of progressive activist Tara McGowan, whose Courier Newsroom project has been labeled misleading and fake news by a variety of nonpartisan outlets.

Times reporter Davey Alba, who was moderating a panel on "fake news and social media disinformation" on which McGowan appeared, praised Courier and McGowan's other projects, calling it "really essential work that you're doing."

Later in the conversation, Alba responded to McGowan's claim that her sites exist to counter the right, saying, "I really love that your mission is to be an offensive player."

Alba's comments, which went unchallenged by fellow panelists McKay Coppins of the Atlantic and Peter Hamby of Snapchat, reflect the Times's broader embrace of McGowan in the lead up to November's election. The latest event comes just days after the Times hosted a conversation with McGowan and comedian Ilana Glazer, who is coordinating with McGowan to boost young voter turnout in swing states—Times journalist and moderator Nick Corasaniti also did not mention the numerous, nonpartisan entities that have turned a skeptical eye toward McGowan's operation.

Alba did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Courier is one of several projects launched by ACRONYM, McGowan's political nonprofit and associated PAC. It serves as an umbrella over a series of "local" news sites, which operate in swing states and push pro-Democratic talking points under the guise of local coverage.

Courier's tactics have been extensively criticized in the media and by nonpartisan experts. The outlets have been called "hyperlocal partisan propaganda" by Gabby Deutch of the nonpartisan media watchdog NewsGuard, while an analysis from the Center for Responsive Politics labeled Courier a "fake news" site hiding a "dark money" network's "political agenda." CNN's Jake Tapper and Brian Stelter counted Courier among so-called pink slime misinformation sites, while outlets such as Politico and Bloomberg have run skeptical profiles of the effort.

Courier is part of ACRONYM's broader push for Democrats to retake the White House in 2020, an effort into which it has poured tens of millions of dollars in recent months. Those efforts are backed by a coterie of progressive billionaires, including LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, Dollar Shave Club CEO Michael Dubin, and Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Steve Jobs.

McGowan's machinations at ACRONYM have also attracted legal scrutiny. Earlier this month, Americans for Public Trust, a watchdog organization helmed by former Nevada attorney general and Republican Adam Laxalt, filed a complaint with the FEC, requesting that Courier be compelled to register as a political entity and forfeit its status as a legally protected news organization.