A propaganda network of corporate and conservative interests is filling the void left by closing local media outlets, according to a NYT investigation. The network features websites that look like traditional news sites – they have names like the Illinois Valley Times and the Maine Business Daily. However, the investigation reveals that freelance writers are hired by these entities and given assignments by corporate PR firms and conservative political groups. Most of the sites do not disclose that their funding comes from advocacy groups.
- Liberal groups have also launched similar sites to attempt to persuade voters. However, the NYT says these efforts pale compared to the 1,300 interconnected sites run by former journalist Brian Timpone.
- Timpone did not talk with the NYT for its article, though he told Salt Lake City-based Deseret News in September that his goal was to "rebuild and democratize community news across the country."
- Many of the websites say they are owned by Metric Media, which established hundreds of local websites over the past two years.
- Several Metric Media freelance writers, who spoke to the NYT, said they felt "duped" once the political agenda of the publications became clear.
- In 2012, Timpone's company Journatic published what became known as "pink slime journalism" – local news articles written by out-of-towners, often under fake bylines.