Each day, in an office outside Phoenix, a team of young writers and editors curates reality.
In the America presented on their news and opinion website, WesternJournal.com, tradition-minded patriots face ceaseless assault by anti-Christian bigots, diseased migrants and race hustlers concocting hate crimes. Danger and outrages loom. A Mexican politician threatens the “takeover” of several American states. Police officers are kicked out of an Arizona Starbucks. Kamala Harris, the Democratic presidential candidate, proposes a “$100 billion handout” for black families.
The Western Journal is not quite a household name. Until recently, some of its most prolific writers used pseudonyms. Though it publishes scores of stories each week about national politics, the company has no Washington bureau, or any other bureaus. Indeed, it rarely dispatches reporters into the world to gather news firsthand.
In the parallel universe of Facebook, though, The Western Journal has been among the most popular and influential publications in America, shaping the political beliefs of more than 36 million deeply loyal readers and followers. In the three years ending in March, according to a New York Times analysis, Western Journal’s Facebook posts earned three-quarters of a billion shares, likes and comments, almost as many as the combined tally of 10 leading American news organizations that together employ thousands of reporters and editors.
But in the last year, as Facebook and Google tried to rein in their own freewheeling, largely unregulated information ecosystems, The Western Journal’s publishers have been thrust into a high-stakes clash between the tech industry and Washington.