CalCoastNews.com is a tabloid website that is subsidized by the San Luis Obispo County Republican Party. Backed by conservative developer John King of King Ventures and former State Senator Sam Blakeslee, CalCoastNews produces countless articles that attack local leaders and their families. The website has quickly garnered a reputation for writing unsubstantiated and hyperbolic coverage of Democratic leaders. CalCoastNews’ advertisers and contributors have either run against or have vocally opposed Democratic leaders targeted by the website’s writers.
CalCoastNews co-founders Karen Velie, Dan Blackburn and their writers repeatedly target District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill, a Democrat, and his wife. The website has accused Hill — Velie’s former teacher at Cal Poly — and his wife of various misconduct, but they repeatedly refuse to turn over evidence or publish substantiating documentation. Here’s one notable instance: In 2013, the New Times reported that Velie blamed her suspicion of driving under the influence arrest on Hill, implying on her website and stating in her criminal trial that the supervisor had somehow orchestrated her arrest in retaliation for her reporting.
That conspiracy theory
CalCoastNews’ writers have also used anonymous pseudonyms to promote their propaganda. In January 2016, an anonymous Facebook page called “Fire Adam Hill” appeared; they have spent thousands using Facebook to advertise CalCoastNews’ articles about the supervisor. “Fire Adam Hill” has also furnished a series of inflammatory flyers, accusing CalCoastNews’ critics of being criminals paid by the supervisor to “stalk, harass and defame.” These assertions exclusively reflect ones made by Velie, who stated on radio show appearances that the supervisor is paying people to defame his critics.
Similarly, the site has targeted their critics by cyberstalking, publishing defamatory articles, threatening employers of critics and threatening lawsuits. As of July 2016, CalCoastNews is being sued for defamation by an Arroyo Grande businessman. Trial is set for November.
The site has targeted other local Democrats throughout San Luis Obispo County and falsely accused some of them of being in “sex scandals.” The website has produced countless misleading and unsubstantiated articles about residents — from falsifying the circumstances surrounding the suicide of a 13-year-old girl to shaming a murder victim by falsely accusing him of beating his killer to wondering whether an arsonist in Nipomo “won” by burning done a home slated to house migrant workers. Their coverage is often peppered with xenophobia, homophobia and racism.
So what can you do?
SLO Truth is running a campaign called #DropDontShop. We produced a flyer listing several known businesses that advertise and support CalCoastNews. We encourage people to not patronize those businesses for as long as they contribute to the website. Volunteers are encouraged to print out the flyers and distribute them throughout their community. Use the hashtag when referring to CalCoastNews on social media.
CalCoastNews is a website that thrives on page clicks and attention. If your friends, colleagues and associates refer to their work, remind them to not believe everything they read. If anyone has questions about the website, mention their poor “reporting” track record and suggest reading other news sources such as The Tribune, New Times, KSBY-TV, KEYT-TV and KCBX radio. Support journalism by supporting those who are fair and truthful, not those who hate and market it as “investigative reporting.”