SAN ANTONIO – At first glance, the layout and names of these websites appear to be local news outlets. But when you look closer, they’re not what they seem.
A report recently published by the Columbia Journalism Review exposed a network of “pink slime” news sites, which have grown from roughly 450 sites in December 2019 to more than 1,200 in 2020. Another report by Duke University says these sites are funded by political interest groups and may have an agenda as the election nears.
In Texas, the network of pink slime sites goes back to a company named Metric Media. They’ve created websites in the San Antonio area that include:
Though the website names are different, they look identical.
In total, Metric Media created 56 “pink slime” news sites in Texas. Metric Media’s office is located in Delaware, nowhere near Texas.
While the “pink slime” sites sometime pull stories from legitimate news sites, experts say it’s important to make sure the information isn’t manipulated in some way.
“What’s concerned us is the possibility that the distribution of local journalism becomes part of a party’s political strategy,” says Phil Napoli, and professor and author at Duke University who co-authored a study on pink slime sites. “Once we are talking about journalism resources being allocated as a tool of influence in a specific direction,” he says, “that does open the door to the greater likelihood of misinformation.”
Here are things to consider to weed out illegitimate news sites:
- Look for a date stamp and an author byline.
- Can you tell who wrote the article and what their background is?
- Has that article been published on other websites with key details changed?
- Does the web site only use stock photos as opposed to locally created content?
- What information is on the “Contact us” page?
When it comes to these news sites, KSAT Trust Index wants you to be careful.