Highland Park residents alarmed by claims in Lake County Gazette, political mailer that looks like newspaper

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HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (CBS) — With six days to go until the midterm elections, attack ads are everywhere.

But right now, what looks like a newspaper is popping up in some mailboxes – and it features a questionable headline about the Highland Park parade massacre this past summer.

As CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reported, the Lake County Gazette looks and feels like a newspaper – and the name of the paper is even believable. But it’s a paper nobody asks for – and it has most recently showed up at homes in Highland Park.

Below the fold of the front page, there is a blurb related to the Safe-T Act—a hot-button political item that is set to reform parts of the criminal justice system, including bail. The paper claims that under the Safe-T Act, the accused Highland Park parade shooter could be released from jail if prosecutors can’t prove he is a threat to a specific person.

"it’s just sad," said Highland Park resident Maureen Miller. "There’s people that are still hurting. We’re going to be hurting for a long time here in Highland Park – and it’s just sad that they had to play on that."

Miller said it didn’t take her long to question the validity and motive behind the paper — which was distributed just days ahead of the election.

"We teach our kids to be information literate – and the adults need to have that media literacy skill as well," she said.

"It’s very strategic to play on people’s emotions," said Stephanie Edgerly, Professor and Associate Dean of Research at the Northwestern Medill School of Journalism, Media & Integrated Marketing Communications. "This close to an election, we do want to be asking questions about like, what is this intended to do, right?"

Edgerly studies how people consume news and the spread of disinformation.

"A lot of us are trying to confront these questions of what is true and what can I believe and what is false," she said, "so you’re really looking for red flags – as many red flags as you can identify."

And Edgerly says the Lake County Gazette is filled with red flags – from the paper showing up without a subscription to the lack of bylines – and stories with claims that aren’t reported by any other media outlet, like the possible release of the suspected Highland Park parade shooter.

"All of those things together would make me really, really skeptical about this entity," she said.

CBS 2 Legal analyst Irv Miller says based on the state statue it is highly unlikely that the accused shooter would be allowed out on any circumstances ahead of a trial, because prosecutors could argue that the shooter is a threat to the entire community. 

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November 2, 2022 at 10:48PM

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