New Illinois news site designed to counter Breitbart, IPI

 In Politics

Ameya Pawar is pictured. | AP Photo

Ameya Pawar, a onetime progressive Illinois gubernatorial candidate, serves as president and executive director of One Illinois. | G-Jun-Yam/AP Photo

CHICAGO — A new Illinois news platform that launches Monday says its mission is to battle all forms of “fake news” and sites designed to stoke the angry American political divide.

One Illinois is a response to Breitbart News and the libertarian-oriented Illinois Policy Institute said Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar, a onetime progressive Illinois gubernatorial candidate who serves as president and executive director.

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“Our fundamental belief is people are good. The way you counter the IPI and Breitbart is you don’t fight fire with fire, you fight fire with water,” Pawar said. “Getting people angry is easy. But making people angry maintains the status quo.”

One Illinois says its mission is driven by one theme: tell stories that bring people together through long-form journalism, videos and one-on-one interviews.

But the very creation of a site intended to serve as a counterforce to the agenda-driving Illinois Policy Institute is a telling admission of the powerful role the right-leaning group has played in the most populous Midwestern state. The IPI has shown an ability to drive the debate and influence action in the Illinois legislature, including whipping up opposition to key votes.

For its part, the IPI welcomed Pawar’s group into the arena and invited One Illinois to review its own storytelling series, Forgotten Illinois.

“For years, the Illinois Policy Institute has produced award-winning storytelling that elevates the voices of Illinoisans across the state and reflects Illinois’ incredible diversity,” the group’s spokeswoman Melanie Krakauer said in a statement. “Since our founding in 2002, we’ve become the only voice in the state for taxpayers, who for too long have been taken advantage of by Illinois’ political class.”

Democrats in the state frequently go to battle with the institute, but usually on a case by case basis, with no unified message.

While Pawar insists the One Illinois site is not partisan and is run by journalists, he said some of his own campaign donors were among the first to donate to the not-for-profit effort. He says he also intends to appeal to organized labor for funding.

One Illinois’ debut story is about a small Mississippi River city near the Iowa border, Savanna, Ill., which in 2016 overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump. The story describes newcomer Chris Lain, who moved into Savanna with his husband, not knowing whether they’d be accepted. Lain ran for mayor on the platform of downtown redevelopment and infrastructure investment, and was elected.

“This is a town that did go for Trump and then in April elected a gay liberal from Chicago,” Lain says in a video that posts on the site today.

Pawar said the story is emblematic of the site’s mission, to build a coalition by connecting people through their stories.

“One way to do that is to acknowledge that President Trump is a bad person but that doesn’t mean the people who voted for him are bad people,” Pawar said.

Other stories include efforts to restore bison to the prairie and rescue injured wildlife.

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