Network of websites, print publications provide paid PR instead of local news

According to an expose by the New York Times, there is a fast-growing network of nearly 1,300 websites and some print publications that aim to fill a void left by vanishing local newspapers across the country. The network, found in all 50 states, is built not on traditional journalism, according to the Times. Instead, it offers propaganda ordered up by conservative think tanks, political operatives, corporate executives and public-relations professionals, a Times investigation found.

The sites present themselves as ordinary local-news outlets, with names like Des Moines Sun, Ann Arbor Times, Maine Business Daily and Empire State Today. They employ simple layouts and articles about local politics, community happenings and sometimes national issues, much like any local newspaper.

But behind the scenes, many of the stories are directed by political groups and corporate P.R. firms to promote a Republican candidate or a company, or to smear their rivals. Out of work journalists, free lancers and PR professionals are paid to write stories to the specifications of the corporate or political sponsor, though no indication is given in the stories or the websites that they are “hired guns.”

Talk about “fake news”…

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