Tara McGowan is the CEO of Good Information, a company that owns several progressive news outlets.
In a world fraught with disinformation, she is tackling the problem head-on, disseminating good information regarding democratic collapse. “The best antidote to disinformation is increasing the volume of good, factual information,” McGowan told Wired.
About McGowan’s Political Operations
McGowan is a democratic political operative turned journalist. She worked with Democrats for the longest time, playing an instrumental role in Barrack Obama’s 2008 win.
She believes that targeted news through social media ad campaigns can push people to the ballot boxes. This has attracted criticism from journalism purists, but she perseveres undeterred. The threat from disinformation and low voter turnouts is far bigger.
She has used targeted news backed by funders, and a host of data-driven practices, to ensure results. She may be deemed a controversial figure, but her method works. Her mission is simple, get people to come out and vote. And she thinks all these new voters will lean left.
Her Facebook ad campaign of targeted news during the Iowa primaries cost $49,000. The campaign was successful as it resulted in 3,300 more voters turning up for elections. This meant they had spent $15 per vote, which is what Biden had spent in 2020 to defeat Trump. McGowan considered that a win.
The Starting Of Courier Newsroom
Tara McGowan’s several news outlets are collectively known as Courier Newsroom. In the past, she has spent a minimum of $5 million on social media ad campaigns alone. Her democratic mission has earned her the trust and the funding of Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn’s cofounder, George Soros, a liberal philanthropist, and many others.
Though McGowan’s methods might attract criticism, her rationale for doing this is simple. Moderating information is not sufficient to tackle disinformation. In recent years, thousands of news outlets have shut down and what has remained is paywalled.
These paywalled newsrooms cater to a particular subset of elite readers. And in this process, a large number of people are left out.
These people are potential voters, but the disinformation has paralyzed them into inaction. McGowan believes that journalism should utilize every available tool in its arsenal to mobilize voters.
Trump’s Election And McGowan
Trump’s election in 2016 came as a shock for many. Of these people was McGowan, who set out to ensure that Trump and his likes never won again.
This led her to start an organization called Acronym. However, she soon grew tired of the perpetually exhausting fundraising and then pouring it into ad campaigns for only a few voters. She wanted to approach the issue systematically and create something that would last.
Her pilot program was started in Virginia, where the Democrats had a chance of retaking the legislature, and McGowan set about making this a reality. She raised money and started a publication called Dogwood.
The democratic publication was aimed at women in Virginia’s suburbs, which has traditionally been a swing constituency. The news outlet became a one-stop-shop of sorts for its target audience. It posted lifestyle as well as political news.
Expansion Of Courier Newsroom Family
Soon after, McGowan secured more funding to expand the Courier Newsroom family. All news outlets were focused on unlikely voters in political hotspots.
Copper Courier in Arizona targeted indigenous and Latina women in Maricopa County. Another news outlet, Cardinal & Pine, focused on rural communities of color in North Carolina, while Florida, a Florida-based news outlet, focused on Puerto Rican women.
As her network of democratic news outlets grew, so too did criticism. Her outlets were criticized for lack of transparency. McGowan, without missing a beat, set out to fix Courier Newsroom’s image. She started working on building trust in her news organization and being more transparent about her funders.
How McGowan Met With Jay Rosen?
In 2021, wanting to be taken more seriously, McGowan met with Jay Rosen, a professor at NYU’s journalism school. Rosen is popular for his view that the pretense that journalists operate with no bias doesn’t serve anyone.
From then on, Rosen and McGowan worked closely together to draft detailed and transparent manifestos for each of Courier Newsroom’s publications. These manifestos were uploaded to the about section of each of these publications’ websites.
According to McGowan, Courier Newsroom’s publications are doing more than other news outlets do. They are open about their mission and their sources of funding. While these steps might not have abated all criticism, McGowan endures.
The Midterm Elections And McGowan
In the lead-up to the 2022 midterm elections, the biggest challenge faced by McGowan was building an audience. Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats lack cultural signifiers. Republicans rally behind antiabortion, churchgoing, and pro-hunting.
The Democrats are currently struggling with messaging. They are trapped in an old model which is not necessarily fit for the modern world. She thinks this struggle is an opportunity for Courier Newsroom.
If only she would be given a chance, she could prove that her model works. Good information, she believes, is the only way to tackle disinformation and prevent democratic collapse.
Democrats only oppose these mandates. Realizing the Republicans politicize cultural identity, McGowan has also started focusing on culturally unifying elements for Democrats, such as state pride and sports. The democratic collapse is a situation where the state living under a serious threat.