Pink Slime

I hadn’t heard the term “pink slime”applied to the media before reading the following report in Talking Points Memo.

This is the tale of a fake news story, widely shared by a lot of smart people who so badly wanted it to be true that they didn’t care that it wasn’t. It is also the tale of the decline of local news in America, the wave of pink slime that is replacing it, feeding destructive partisan narratives about public institutions.

The story–which was written to sound like one of those overzealous efforts to compensate for structural racism–was that administrators at two Chicago suburban high schools would be requiring teachers to “adjust”their  classroom grading scales in the upcoming year. The adjustments were supposedly going to “account for the skin color or ethnicity of the students”. The story (from a rightwing outlet masquerading as a local news source) explained that the directive was an effort “to equalize test scores among racial groups.” Teachers would be told

to exclude from their grading assessments variables it says disproportionally hurt the grades of black students. They can no longer be docked for missing class, misbehaving in school or failing to turn in their assignments, according to the plan.

To suggest that people were outraged would be a considerable understatement. Had the story been true, the outrage would have been appropriate, but of course, it wasn’t. Not even close. No new policies had been adopted. A committee on grading and assessment had submitted an initial report, but it contained no mention of race-based grading or plans to grade students using different standards according to race.

This is where “pink slime” comes in. “Pink slime” is the product of a partisan propaganda platform well-disguised as a “local” news outlet. It’s named after a meat-processing byproduct used as filler—in other words, it looks like meat but isn’t.

When Talking Points Memo reporters looked for the source of the story–which you couldn’t even characterize as distorted, since it was pretty much invented out of whole cloth–they traced it to something called Local Government Information Services.

Local Government Information Services (LGIS) is the publisher of lots of local news media in Illinois, with titles like “Southern Illinois News” and “SW Illinois news.” LGIS is part of a much larger network of local news in multiple states. As local news media has disappeared “pink slime” outlets like LGIS have taken their place, relying on low-cost or automated content repeated across sites, and eschewing basic journalistic practices.

Just how big and how connected these local news outlets are is difficult to discern. In 2020, the New York Times counted about 1,200 connected local news outlets that had arisen in just 10 years.

Behind this empire of pink slime is Brian Timpone, a conservative businessman and former journalist with a record of plagiarism and fabrication. It is not just that his media has an ideological outlook, or that it frequently uses deceptive practices such as the story detailed here. They are also directly funded by conservative advocates, a fact that is rarely disclosed to readers. At least $1.7 million could be traced going from Republican campaigns to Timpone’s companies, but the actual number is unknown given the shadowy nature of the flow of political money and the obtuse structure of these networks.

The rise of LGIS and similar “news sources” has been facilitated by the near-death of local journalism and the closing of hundreds of newspapers that adhered to the norms of ethical news gathering. The fact that so much false “news” goes viral tells us that the supply of propaganda continues to grow, with phony “news” sources extruding a steady stream of propaganda masquerading as news–pink slime, pretending to be meat.

Local journalists with a sense of responsibility to journalistic ethics, their personal reputation, and the community they live in have been replaced by anonymous for-hire freelancers paid crumbs to feed the motivated reasoning beast.

As the report notes, people want to believe that these stories aren’t just true, but typical.

“But of course,” they type, and retweet. Even after they have been corrected, they might think to themselves, “Well, maybe this specific piece was exaggerated, but it is representative of a broader trend.”

The episode is indeed representative and telling, but of something that has gone wrong in our media landscape. When you give the benefit of the doubt to partisan fake news rather than professional educators, it is hard to take the whole “I’m here to defend education” bit too seriously. Our looming crisis in education is not runaway wokeness, which local school boards can police, but the willingness of those who should know better to reflexively denigrate the teaching profession.

America’s problems almost all come back to partisan, deeply dishonest media.


  1. Once again, was Gannett an honest media outlet? Is the Washington Post an honest news outlet? How about Fox News?

    There is a reason the news media is dying in local, regional, and national topics/places.

    The power of the free press is the TRUTH. Seeking and uncovering the uncomfortable truths within our government to keep our politicians honest because they serve the people and do the work for them.

    As Thomas Jefferson described the free press, “I want the press to hold me accountable so I don’t abuse my power.”

    He knew human nature because they were from a period of enlightenment. The role of the government was to hold the economic wolves accountable. Jefferson knew what they were capable of doing with their money. Since the beginning of time, money and man’s weaknesses were the culprit of all corruption. Therefore, we needed a strong central government and a strong free press.

    It was this balance or these guardrails which would keep the country moving forward. It didn’t last very long.

    When the free press sold its power of truth-seeking, it became just another opinion. Lots of opinions floating around and social media makes it easier to share your opinion.

    The truth is still out there, but the people have got so accustomed to being told what they want to hear versus what they need to hear, guess what?

    It’s not rocket science. It’s basic human instincts. 😉

  2. It’s all about money. The rich people need to keep selling the poor people lies so that the poor people are never able to organize and enforce anti-trust laws, redress wealth inequity, fix health care or repair our justice system. The uber-wealthy like things the way they are and are fighting to keep our system working to their advantage. And to hell with the environment, individual rights and anything else that might get in the way of them making more money.

  3. Who peddled the Russia Hoax for the last 4 years? WaPo, NYT, Gannett, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN. The DOJ spent 35 mill and did not find anything. Durham exposed the Hillary campaign as the feeder of the hoax. Any chance of admitting that all the previously mentioned wrote the how to book on pink slime?

  4. Geraldine,

    Substitute Republican for rich people and your comments are more accurate.

    Republicans have NO civic agenda or policy. The GOP didn’t even bother with a platform in the 2020 election cycle. And since they have no civic agenda, they have to make crap up to enflame their voting base. Remember, over 75% of their right-wing base VOTES, while less than 50% of everybody else votes. Even in 2020, there were over 100 million eligible voters who didn’t vote.


    If you still think Russia wasn’t trying to influence the 2016 election, you live in a dreamy place. It is DOCUMENTED that Putin wanted Trump to be President because he was so easily manipulated and corrupted. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. And the DOJ found plenty – but you had to look for it. Durham is a Republican hack paid to confirm biases and invent information.

    Come on!

  5. We’ve discussed the topic of non-profit news organizations whose mission it is to fill the hole left by disappearing traditional newspapers and one such outlet is starting up a team to cover state-level news in Indiana. It’s called and they just hired political reporter Niki Kelly from the Journal Gazette (a huge loss for them) as well as three more reporters from other papers including the Indy Star and Indiana Bus Journal.


  6. I forgot to include a copy of the Michigan version of statesnewsroom. Each outlet has its own identity:

  7. Jan, please do us all a favor and read the Mueller Report. The reason they didn’t find “collusion” is simply that they didn’t look for it. Mr. Mueller stated clearly that collusion is “not a term of art under law.” He did find reams of evidence of coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign and at least 11 incidents of obstruction of justice by the campaign. As to your other claim about the Clinton campaign being responsible for the investigation, do I need to point out that the lawyer who was accused by Durham was acquitted?

  8. As stated by Trump, himself, fair elections, with fair balloting, means that Republicans will never win another election, and this “pink” garbage is just one more iteration of that awareness. to paraphrase: Truth telling in journalism means that Republicans will loose clout, and never win another election.

  9. I remember learning in high school that the significant reason that Rome’s Coliseum was built was to entertain Romans with spectacles of blood and gore and power and winners and losers and the majesty of governors in order to keep their minds off the government’s ineptitude and the country’s irreversible decline.

    If they were smart enough back then to see the value of entertainment in anesthetizing thinking we are certainly smart enough now to have learned from them, apparently not how to govern more effectively but how to avoid the liberal democratic accountability of government unable to cope with the current reality.

  10. Peggy, excellent!

    Terry, “Rosebud”

    Vernon Turner, as always 👍

    At least the satirical paper “The Onion,” is listed as satirical! Possibly, they could make it the law requiring some of these outlets to be listed as satirical! They undoubedly will resist, but considering “The Onion” is quoted as fact sometimes anyway, I’m sure it wouldn’t slow them down one iota.

    It really isn’t about money per se, it’s about power! Look at what Russia is doing to the Ukraine, especially in the east. They’ve laid waste to every city in the area, they’ve demolished the infrastructure, so, what’s left? Oil? Minerals? Land? Farm fields? It will take probably trillions of dollars to rebuild the Ukraine, does Russia have that kind of money? Nope, and Russia doesn’t care. It’s about power! It’s about looking to the past, and the fantasy of the good old days, truth, justice, compassion, empathy, concern, love, all be damned! You want it? Well, burn It down to the ground, and you can have it? Lol, or maybe not lol, you can’t get any more obtusly Luddite than that!

  11. Todd,

    You’re absolutely correct! Who wants to be told the truth anyway? Nobody wants to believe history, unless it’s a history they feel is more compatible with their ideals, whether it’s made up of Truth and facts or not. Does anybody really want to know the backdrop of their core beliefs or desires? People don’t want to see a clear reflection of who they are, or who they want to be, or what hitching Post they are attached to! They prefer to look in a mirror darkly! Obscuritism is always more attractive than knowledge and wisdom, because obscuritism can be manipulated into whatever one wants it to be! Obscuritism, the perfect Me’ist or Me’ism trope engine….

  12. Jan, everything Peggy said was perfectly on point.

    One thing Peggy didn’t note explicitly but is worth mentioning is that you are precisely proving the whole point of this blog post.

    Peggy didn’t go into detail about the Durham charge itself, either. It’s worth some expansion. The charge was that one statement in his testimony was false. The FBI interviewers asked whether he was working on behalf of a client. Sussman said no. The Durham guys tried to prove that was false and that he was acting on behalf of Hillary’s campaign. They failed.

    Basically, it appears that Durham is trying to imply a conspiracy via this and two other similar claims. So consider Durham… At the worst reading, it’s despicable partisan dishonesty. The best case that can be made for Durham is that he’s a stickler for the letter of the law and will try every tiny item he finds that appears to be a violation. (Personally, given that Durham has already put three years, and millions of dollars into this investigation, I have a hard time seeing justification for the latter option. But there’s no way I could say for sure.)

  13. As someone who worked in local media for 40 years, I see clearly that the undermining of local media is part of the calculated plot to overthrow the American government and U.S. Constitution in favor of rich authoritarians.
    Geraldine Powell’s sentiment is strongly documented.
    Jan – Thank you for offering such a clear example of how effective the fake media are.

  14. “Pink slime in the ice machine” helps customers to figure out which convenience stores (C-stores) to PASS UP! Salmonella and E. Coli live in pink slime in the ice machine at C-stores and perhaps in your own home. Now, it lives in even what has been passing for “journalism” in too many cases. Avoid pink slime at all costs!

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