Calling all climate journalists: Your dream job awaits, courtesy of Chevron. The oil giant is looking to hire people with journalistic experience to build out a “newsroom”—quotes around that word included in the job posting—to help spread
propaganda the good news about Chevron.
The new venture was first reported by E&E on Friday. In a hilarious twist that merits nomination for its own Pulitzer, E&E first learned of the new venture when one of its own reporters was approached by Cella, the staffing agency doing the hiring for Chevron. The recruiter told the staffer that the job is a “great opportunity to join Chevron’s newsroom at [its] infancy.” When the E&E reporter asked what topics the position would write about and if climate change would be included, the recruiter said it would be covering “all things Chevron.”
The original job listing, titled “Business Writer, Oil & Energy,” was posted to LinkedIn by Cella and doesn’t mention Chevron by name. (Other postings from Cella for an editor-in-chief and a creative director mention an “oil and energy client.”) Braden Reddall, a spokesperson for Chevron, confirmed to Earther in an email that the posting was for a gig at the oil and gas giant.
“Our ambition is to proactively tell the story of Chevron through engaging, consumer-first digital content,” Reddall wrote. “Just like other companies, we are working to evolve the way we create and deliver our branded content to readers, both internal and external. As stated in the job ad, these are stories that can be leveraged across our digital ecosystem: chevron.com, newsletters, social media, paid search, and the internal news site.”
Producing in-house communications and paid media as a corporate strategy is on the rise. But it’s definitely worth noting here that Chevron has a very specific history of paying to create “news” extolling the company’s virtues. Most notably, Chevron pays for a “newspaper” in Richmond, California, where a Chevron refinery has foisted pollution on predominantly Black and Latinx communities for decades. The Richmond Standard—which has a footer disclaimer that it is funded by Chevron, and aims to “provide a voice for Chevron Products Company on civic issues”—was started after the refinery exploded in 2012 (the third time it had done so).
The site runs news unrelated to Chevron, but has also published articles dissing anti-oil activists. A 2014 Guardian feature on that site’s editor begins with the incredible lede that he has been called “a corporate prostitute, a propagandist for big oil, an apologist for pollution, Voldemort and more,” which seems like a great add to the job description for the new position. (Reddall didn’t answer Earther’s questions as to whether these new positions were related to the effort in Richmond.)
More broadly, the oil and gas industry originated the whole idea of hiring people to produce paid content disguised as news to promote their product. Exxon started the trend in the 1970s, when the company took out entire pages in the New York Times and disguised pro-Exxon ad copy to look like editorials from the paper. More recently, oil companies have tapped Instagram influencers to disseminate their messaging in sponsored posts and wormed propaganda disguised as news into some of the most important political newsletters. Hiring “reporters” to be part of an internal “newsroom,” as the job posting says, seems like a natural next step.
It’s also notable that the position is posted as the PR companies increasingly come under fire for working with Big Oil. Some agencies have made efforts to separate themselves from the industry altogether, while PR giant Edelman garnered widespread criticism for keeping polluters as clients following a review. Studies have shown that oil and gas corporate messaging and PR machines ramp up following bad press and political action. Considering the terrible year oil majors that Chevron had in 2021, this effort seems like a chance to hit reset and try to present the company as a kinder, gentler major corporate polluter.
And frankly, I’m sold. Consider this post my resignation from Earther*; Big Oil, I’m ready to tell your stories. No, not those ones about how you refuse to pay a settlement to tribes in the Amazon or demonized the lawyer who beat you. And definitely not stories about all the homophobic bigots you fund in Congress or those pesky oil spills that keep happening. And definitely not anything about trying to use protests against police brutality as a wedge issue to keep pumping oil. No, we’ll definitely find some feel-good stories that I’m sure are hiding somewhere.
* For legal reasons, this is a joke; Earther, I still love you.