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Google News removes website financed by water district

Photo: Central Basin Water District General Manager Art Aguilar speaks at a board of directors meeting in Commerce. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Officials at Google News on Tuesday removed a website from its search index that had contracted with a local water district to produce promotional pieces “written in the image of real news.”

The move came in response to a Times story on an unusual agreement between the Central Basin Municipal Water District and a consultant affiliated with the news website, News Hawks Review. Under the deal the water district, a public agency based in Southeast L.A. County, paid nearly $200,000 to a consultant to publish positive stories that appeared as articles on Google News.

A Google spokesman said in a statement to The Times that News Hawks Review had violated its guidelines and would no longer appear in Google News searches. The spokesman did not elaborate on the specifics of the violation.

News Hawks Review had published more than 30 stories about the Central Basin in the last year on topics such as its recycled water system and legal battle over groundwater rights.

The website was part of a corporate communications firm under contract with the water district, according to agreements reviewed by the Times.

Central Basin officials declined to comment Tuesday. But in a previous interview, spokeswoman Valerie Howard said she did not find the website misleading, adding that it had helped bring more attention to the district’s projects.

Edward Coghlan, the principal of the firm that produced the stories, did not respond to an interview request.


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Photo: Central Basin Water District General Manager Art Aguilar speaks at a board of directors meeting in the City of Commerce. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

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