For months, Publishing Insider
has bemoaned the sorry condition of local journalism as newspapers shut down or make drastic newsroom cuts amid declining readership and ad revenue. Even worse,
they're being replaced by politically driven websites that pose as independent news sources.
Michigan, which was a key battleground state during the 2016 presidential election, is
now home to dozens of newly launched websites that are branded as local news outlets — but carry distinct political messaging
, the Lansing State
reported this week.
With titles like Lansing Sun, Ann Arbor Times, Battle Creek Times and Kalamazoo Times, the sites have regional names and
sections for business, local government, politics, real estate and schools. The similarity to independent newspapers ends there, though, with stories that convey a political leaning.
For example, a story on voter fraud appearing in the Great Lakes Wire
cites a report by the Heritage Foundation, a
conservative think tank. There was no reference to an opposing point of view or impartial source that would help readers understand the issue more completely.
All the Michigan
publications have an "About us" section that identifies Metric Media LLC as the publisher, along with a mission statement. It says the company seeks to fill the "growing void in local and community
news after years of steady disinvestment in local reporting by legacy media."
A privacy page says the website are operated by Locality Labs LLC, another shadowy operation.
l doubt the companies are fronts for the Chinese or Russian governments that seek to interfere in U.S. elections -- after all, Facebook is a far more effective platform for meddling. But I don't
like websites that try to pose as independent providers of fact-based journalism.
The internet already is drowning in unchecked misinformation, fake news and propaganda -- and
desperately needs more reliable sources of information.
I suppose a clever comment would be "we have the dame thing here in NY, it's called the NY Times." But really, why the concentration in Michigan? Are these sites located in other regions? After all, online can originate anywhere.