Local newspapers are vanishing across the country. Popping up in their place: A network of nearly 1,300 local websites publishing articles ordered up by Republican groups and PR firms. nyti.ms/3dB82eh
The sites appear as ordinary local news outlets, with names like Des Moines Sun and Ann Arbor Times. Most declare that they aim to provide "objective" information but do not disclose that some of the articles are directed by clients.
For "Maine Business Daily," one reporter was paid $22 to write an article calling Sara Gideon, a Democrat running for a hotly contested U.S. Senate seat, a hypocrite.

It was written based on accusations from the spokesman of the Republican opponent, Senator Susan Collins.
After publication, the reporter received an email from her editor: The “client” who had ordered the article, her editor said, wanted it to include more detail. nyti.ms/3dB82eh
The man largely behind the network itself is Brian Timpone, a former TV reporter who has sought to capitalize on the decline of local news for nearly two decades. He did not respond to requests for comment. nyti.ms/3dB82eh
The political bent of Timpone’s sites has been previously reported, but the extent of the deception has been concealed with confidentiality contracts and a confusing web of companies that run the papers. nyti.ms/3dB82eh
Those companies have received at least $2 million from Republican campaigns and conservative think tanks, according to tax records and campaign finance reports. nyti.ms/3dB82eh
We uncovered more details about the operation through interviews with over 30 current and former clients and employees. We reviewed thousands of internal emails and the editing history behind dozens of articles, revealing who requested which ones and how: nyti.ms/3dB82eh

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19 Oct
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