Public Calls for Investigation of Alleged ‘Fake News’

VISTA Today Fake News

WEST CHESTER, PA — This week, the VISTA Today website again found itself the center of controversy when it published an article entitled Report Finds Mariner 2 Does Not Pose the Risk Claimed by Opposition Groups. The angry backlash came on Vista Today’s Facebook page.

In this latest incident, VISTA Today promoted a risk assessment conducted by G-2 Integrated Services related to the Mariner 2 pipeline, which compares the likelihood of dying in a pipeline explosion to traffic accidents or falling down the stairs. While dismissing public concerns, VISTA Today continued to ignore many known safety issues, including an associated pipeline explosion in Beaver County back in September.

The Center Township, Beaver County incident destroyed one home about 500 feet from the pipeline blast, forced evacuations, and closed an interstate. Additionally, reports stated that two garages, a barn, and several vehicles were also destroyed by fires caused by the explosion. Luckily, no injuries were reported.

“Energy Transfer is an affiliate of Vista, so they push stories that are pro-Mariner and pro-Sunoco,” wrote one Facebook user, “They are supposed to disclose that relationship in the article.”

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This is not this first time VISTA Today was called out for taking a pro-pipeline stance on behalf of its paid affiliate, Energy Transfer Partners/ Sunoco. In August, VISTA Today received backlash for an article claiming the Sunoco Mariner East 2  project is positive for Chester County’s economy and safety is the centerpiece pipeline construction and operation.

“VISTA Today is [a] propaganda joke,” exclaimed another local Facebook user. The outrage continued with some even calling for an FCC investigation of the media outlet for failing to clearly disclose sponsored content within articles.

Nevertheless, there is a question about what VISTA Today actually is. The answer is different depending on where one looks or when one asks. Sometimes VISTA Today describes itself as a business journal, other times it calls itself community news, sometimes it is a media outlet, and others it is “not traditional journalism”.

VISTA Today is owned by Exton-based American Community Journals, and the website states it is operated in “creative partnership with the Chester County Economic Development Council”.

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However, in documents received through county government, VISTA Today is described by the County of Chester as the “web-based news service” for VISTA 2025, a public-private partnership focused on creating and implementing an economic development strategy for Chester County, Pennsylvania.

VISTA Today seems to keep its relationship with Chester County’s government vague. Readers would be hardpressed to identify the connection and must make assumptions based merely on the site’s logo and the tenuous similarity of the name. The website is also missing basic components of an online publisher or media outlets, such as a Terms of Service page, Privacy Policy, or Sponsored Content Disclosure.

Currently, VISTA Today has a reported 44 “affiliate partners”, which include private businesses, non-profits, and government entities. While the failure to properly distinguish between sponsored articles and traditional editorial content may have potential consequences, it is unlikely anything will change unless or until its sponsors are held accountable.

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