New York Times calls into question publications, including Illinois Valley Times

State Sen. Sue Rezin was contacted by the New York Times for the first time, but she wasn’t asked about her positions or policies. The national publication was interested in a publication that had written about her.

The Morris Republican had been favorably mentioned in the Illinois Valley Times, and the reporter who reached out to Rezin had questions about her relationship with the publication.

The New York Times had uncovered details about the operation through interviews with more than 30 current and former employees and clients, as well as thousands of internal emails between reporters and editors spanning several years. Employees of the network shared emails and the editing history in the site’s publishing software that revealed who requested dozens of articles and how.

The network is one of a proliferation of partisan local news sites funded by political groups associated with both parties.

Behind the scenes, many of the stories are directed by political groups and corporate public relations firms to promote a Republican candidate or a company, or to smear their rivals, reported the New York Times.

This is problematic, because only a few dozen of the sites disclose funding from advocacy groups. Traditional news organizations don’t accept pay for articles; the Federal Trade Commission requires that advertising that looks like articles be labeled as ads.

Liberal donors have poured millions of dollars into operations like Courier, a network of eight sites that began covering local news in swing states last year. Conservative activists are running similar sites, like the Star News group in Tennessee, Virginia and Minnesota.

In Rezin’s case, she said she’s never worked with the company that operates the Illinois Valley Times. She said she never remitted them any money in exchange for favorable coverage.

The New York Times counted 34 of 40 stories written by one reporter about Rezin.

As for the IV Times reporter who published articles about her, Rezin said she fields questions from that reporter on a regular basis.

“From my perspective, he’s one of the reporters who calls me, and it’s usually covering a topic from my social media,” Rezin said.

But Rezin came away understanding that the New York Times had called into question the financial relationship between the GOP and the publishers of the IV Times and others across the nation that use a non-traditional business model. While most newspapers derive revenue from the paid circulation and advertising, what the New York Times discovered was a growing number of print products were political vehicles funded largely by the GOP and its interest groups or public relations firms.

The network, the New York Times reported, “is largely overseen by Brian Timpone, a TV reporter turned internet entrepreneur who has sought to capitalize on the decline of local news organizations for nearly two decades.”

The Times went on to link the Timpone operation to Chicago radio personality Dan Proft and two sitting Republican officeholders, including Jeanne Ives, a former candidate for Illinois governor, who “paid Mr. Timpone’s companies $55,000 over the past three years, according to state and federal records. During that time, the Illinois sites have published overwhelmingly positive coverage of her, including running some of her news releases verbatim.”

Proft and Timpone did not respond to Shaw Media messages left by social media and by telephone. A message left with Ives’ campaign spokeswoman also was not returned.

According to the New York Times analysis, “The publications looked like typical news outlets that covered their communities. But a political action committee controlled by Mr. Proft paid Mr. Timpone’s companies at least $646,000 from 2016 to 2018, according to state campaign finance records.”

Other publications produced by this outlet throughout Illinois include the DeKalb Times, Grundy Reporter, Kane County Reporter, Kankakee Times, Kendall County Times, McLean County Times, NW Illinois News, Peoria Standard and McHenry Times, among others.

In 2016, the Ottawa Times revealed instances of plagiarism in the Illinois Valley Times. The publication said it fired the reporter after those instances were revealed.

via | The Times

October 25, 2020 at 12:01PM

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