Partisan local news networks will collaborate

“Networks with aligned interests will boost each other’s narratives in a coordinated fashion to inundate readers with the same message from different places.”

The last two U.S. election cycles have seen not just standalone partisan news sites crop up in certain states, but entire networks, each of which operate anywhere between half a dozen to over a thousand news sites. For the most part, these partisan and “pink slime” networks span ideological divides, provide a means to launder advocacy (be it political, corporate, or around special interests), and aren’t transparent about their funding which can come from PACs and dark money groups. Yet their websites mirror the look-and-feel of independent news sites, as do their titles: Names like Chicago City Wire, Michigan Independent, and Milwaukee Metro Times make it hard for readers to discern their true nature.

As independent local news outlets continue to struggle, not only will the scale and scope of these networks rise to fill the vacuum and take advantage of the inherent trust readers have in local news, but they’re likely to embrace the “surround sound” approach. Networks with aligned interests will boost each other’s narratives in a coordinated fashion to inundate readers with the same message from different places.

In some cases, different networks will be funded by the same sources who are building out their own vision of local news. In some cases, different partisan networks will collaborate with the same advocacy groups and cite the same research — which might also be funded by the same sources as the news networks. Different spins on the same story can also be published simultaneously on different websites across the networks, all the while citing and promoting aligned sites and networks.

The rationale behind this strategy is simple: Provide more credibility to these networks and the sites within these networks, while also ensuring these efforts are more influential. After all, the odds of a message cutting through to readers — and perhaps even to the traditional press — increase if it comes from multiple places as opposed to a single story in a single relatively unknown local news site.

In the run-up to the 2024 general election, more such networks will emerge, and adopting the “surround sound” tactic will become standard practice. Independent local media — already playing second fiddle to partisan local press in some state — will face the challenging task of ensuring its readers can distinguish between political campaigning and good old-fashioned news.

Priyanjana Bengani is a senior research fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism.

The last two U.S. election cycles have seen not just standalone partisan news sites crop up in certain states, but entire networks, each of which operate anywhere between half a dozen to over a thousand news sites. For the most part, these partisan and “pink slime” networks span ideological divides, provide a means to launder advocacy (be it political, corporate, or around special interests), and aren’t transparent about their funding which can come from PACs and dark money groups. Yet their websites mirror the look-and-feel of independent news sites, as do their titles: Names like Chicago City Wire, Michigan Independent, and Milwaukee Metro Times make it hard for readers to discern their true nature.

As independent local news outlets continue to struggle, not only will the scale and scope of these networks rise to fill the vacuum and take advantage of the inherent trust readers have in local news, but they’re likely to embrace the “surround sound” approach. Networks with aligned interests will boost each other’s narratives in a coordinated fashion to inundate readers with the same message from different places.

In some cases, different networks will be funded by the same sources who are building out their own vision of local news. In some cases, different partisan networks will collaborate with the same advocacy groups and cite the same research — which might also be funded by the same sources as the news networks. Different spins on the same story can also be published simultaneously on different websites across the networks, all the while citing and promoting aligned sites and networks.

The rationale behind this strategy is simple: Provide more credibility to these networks and the sites within these networks, while also ensuring these efforts are more influential. After all, the odds of a message cutting through to readers — and perhaps even to the traditional press — increase if it comes from multiple places as opposed to a single story in a single relatively unknown local news site.

In the run-up to the 2024 general election, more such networks will emerge, and adopting the “surround sound” tactic will become standard practice. Independent local media — already playing second fiddle to partisan local press in some state — will face the challenging task of ensuring its readers can distinguish between political campaigning and good old-fashioned news.

Priyanjana Bengani is a senior research fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism.

Amy Schmitz Weiss   Journalism education faces a crossroads

Peter Sterne   AI enters the newsroom

Al Lucca   Digital news design gets interesting again

Surya Mattu   Data journalists learn from photojournalists

Mar Cabra   The inevitable mental health revolution

Kerri Hoffman   Podcasting goes local

Sarabeth Berman   Nonprofit local news shows that it can scale

Lisa Heyamoto   The independent news industry gets a roadmap to sustainability

Gina Chua   The traditional story structure gets deconstructed

Mael Vallejo   More threats to press freedom across the Americas

Delano Massey   The industry shakes its imposter syndrome

Amethyst J. Davis   The slight of the great contraction

Ståle Grut   Your newsroom experiences a Midjourney-gate, too

Sam Gregory   Synthetic media forces us to understand how media gets made

Andrew Losowsky   Journalism realizes the replacement for Twitter is not a new Twitter

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Journalists productively harness generative AI tools

Priyanjana Bengani   Partisan local news networks will collaborate

Alexandra Borchardt   The year of the climate journalism strategy

Emma Carew Grovum   The year to resist forgetting about diversity

Cassandra Etienne   Local news fellowships will help fight newsroom inequities

Anita Varma   Journalism prioritizes the basic need for survival

Hillary Frey   Death to the labor-intensive memo for prospective hires

Johannes Klingebiel   The innovation team, R.I.P.

Brian Stelter   Finding new ways to reach news avoiders

Mariana Moura Santos   A woman who speaks is a woman who changes the world

Ayala Panievsky   It’s time for PR for journalism

Rachel Glickhouse   Humanizing newsrooms will be a badge of honor

Richard Tofel   The press might get better at vetting presidential candidates

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-check (no, really!)

Christoph Mergerson   The rot at the core of the news business

Sam Guzik   AI will start fact-checking. We may not like the results.

Martina Efeyini   Talk to Gen Z. They’re the experts of Gen Z.

David Skok   Renewed interest in human-powered reporting

Michael W. Wagner   The backlash against pro-democracy reporting is coming

Stefanie Murray   The year U.S. media stops screwing around and becomes pro-democracy

Jennifer Brandel   AI couldn’t care less. Journalists will care more. 

Pia Frey   Publishers start polling their users at scale

Zizi Papacharissi   Platforms are over

Don Day   The news about the news is bad. I’m optimistic.

Jim Friedlich   Local journalism steps up to the challenge of civic coverage

Karina Montoya   More reporters on the antitrust beat

Jennifer Choi and Jonathan Jackson   Funders finally bet on next-generation news entrepreneurs

Jessica Clark   Open discourse retrenches

Shanté Cosme   The answer to “quiet quitting” is radical empathy

Eric Ulken   Generative AI brings wrongness at scale

Tamar Charney   Flux is the new stability

Peter Bale   Rising costs force more digital innovation

Kaitlyn Wells   We’ll prioritize media literacy for children

Dana Lacey   Tech will screw publishers over

Joanne McNeil   Facebook and the media kiss and make up

Josh Schwartz   The AI spammers are coming

Wilson Liévano   Diaspora journalism takes the next step

Ryan Nave   Citizen journalism, but make it equitable

Nicholas Thompson   The year AI actually changes the media business

Molly de Aguiar and Mandy Van Deven   Narrative change trend brings new money to journalism

Anna Nirmala   News organizations get new structures

Ariel Zirulnick   Journalism doubles down on user needs

Jessica Maddox   Journalists keep getting manipulated by internet culture

Michael Schudson   Journalism gets more and more difficult

Errin Haines   Journalists on the campaign trail mend trust with the public

Julia Beizer   News fatigue shows us a clear path forward

Tim Carmody   Newsletter writers need a new ethics

Doris Truong   Workers demand to be paid what the job is worth

Larry Ryckman   We’ll work together with our competitors

Elite Truong   In platform collapse, an opportunity for community

Paul Cheung   More news organizations will realize they are in the business of impact, not eyeballs

Sarah Stonbely   Growth in public funding for news and information at the state and local levels

Sarah Alvarez   Dream bigger or lose out

AX Mina   Journalism in a time of permacrisis

Cindy Royal   Yes, journalists should learn to code, but…

Laxmi Parthasarathy   Unlocking the silent demand for international journalism

Simon Galperin   Philanthropy stops investing in corporate media

Alex Sujong Laughlin   Credit where it’s due

Victor Pickard   The year journalism and capitalism finally divorce

Jenna Weiss-Berman   The economic downturn benefits the podcasting industry. (No, really!)

Alex Perry   New paths to transparency without Twitter

Sue Robinson   Engagement journalism will have to confront a tougher reality

A.J. Bauer   Covering the right wrong

Jonas Kaiser   Rejecting the “free speech” frame

Kaitlin C. Miller   Harassment in journalism won’t get better, but we’ll talk about it more openly

Nikki Usher   This is the year of the RSS reader. (Really!)

Francesco Zaffarano   There is no end of “social media”

Jakob Moll   Journalism startups will think beyond English

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Well-being will become a core tenet of journalism

Brian Moritz   Rebuilding the news bundle

Julia Angwin   Democracies will get serious about saving journalism

Esther Kezia Thorpe   Subscription pressures force product innovation

Mary Walter-Brown and Tristan Loper   Mission-driven metrics become our North Star

Jaden Amos   TikTok personality journalists continue to rise

Sumi Aggarwal   Smart newsrooms will prioritize board development

Christina Shih   Shared values move from nice-to-haves to essentials

Masuma Ahuja   Journalism starts working for and with its communities

Susan Chira   Equipping local journalism

Jacob L. Nelson   Despite it all, people will still want to be journalists

Janet Haven   ChatGPT and the future of trust 

Anthony Nadler   Confronting media gerrymandering

Sue Cross   Thinking and acting collectively to save the news

Burt Herman   The year AI truly arrives — and with it the reckoning

Leezel Tanglao   Community partnerships drive better reporting

Moreno Cruz Osório   Brazilian journalism turns wounds into action

Tre'vell Anderson   Continued culpability in anti-trans campaigns

Cari Nazeer and Emily Goligoski   News organizations step up their support for caregivers

Jarrad Henderson   Video editing will help people understand the media they consume

Felicitas Carrique and Becca Aaronson   News product goes from trend to standard

Ryan Gantz   “I’m sorry, but I’m a large language model”

Juleyka Lantigua   Newsrooms recognize women of color as the canaries in the coal mine

Jesse Holcomb   Buffeted, whipped, bullied, pulled

Basile Simon   Towards supporting criminal accountability

Anika Anand   Independent news businesses lead the way on healthy work cultures

Kavya Sukumar   Belling the cat: The rise of independent fact-checking at scale

Parker Molloy   We’ll reach new heights of moral panic

Walter Frick   Journalists wake up to the power of prediction markets

Joshua P. Darr   Local to live, wire to wither

Ryan Kellett   Airline-like loyalty programs try to tie down news readers

Laura E. Davis   The year we embrace the robots — and ourselves

Sue Schardt   Toward a new poetics of journalism

Barbara Raab   More journalism funders will take more risks

Joe Amditis   AI throws a lifeline to local publishers

Matt Rasnic   More newsroom workers turn to organized labor

Dominic-Madori Davis   Everyone finally realizes the need for diverse voices in tech reporting

Upasna Gautam   Technology that performs at the speed of news

Jim VandeHei   There is no “peak newsletter”

Sarah Marshall   A web channel strategy won’t be enough

Jody Brannon   We’ll embrace policy remedies

Rodney Gibbs   Recalibrating how we work apart

Emily Nonko   Incarcerated reporters get more bylines

Nicholas Jackson   There will be launches — and we’ll keep doing the work

Cory Bergman   The AI content flood

Taylor Lorenz   The “creator economy” will be astroturfed

Alexandra Svokos   Working harder to reach audiences where they are

Alan Henry   A reckoning with why trust in news is so low

Mario García   More newsrooms go mobile-first

Khushbu Shah   Global reporting will suffer

Gabe Schneider   Well-funded journalism leaders stop making disparate pay

Ben Werdmuller   The internet is up for grabs again

Snigdha Sur   Newsrooms get nimble in a recession

S. Mitra Kalita   “Everything sucks. Good luck to you.”

Gordon Crovitz   The year advertisers stop funding misinformation

Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau   More of the same

Raney Aronson-Rath   Journalists will band together to fight intimidation

Andrew Donohue   We’ll find out whether journalism can, indeed, save democracy

John Davidow   A year of intergenerational learning

Danielle K. Brown and Kathleen Searles   DEI efforts must consider mental health and online abuse

Kathy Lu   We need emotionally agile newsroom leaders

Eric Nuzum   A focus on people instead of power

Megan Lucero and Shirish Kulkarni   The future of journalism is not you

David Cohn   AI made this prediction

Daniel Trielli   Trust in news will continue to fall. Just look at Brazil.

Bill Grueskin   Local news will come to rely on AI

Joni Deutsch   Podcast collaboration — not competition — breeds excellence

Eric Holthaus   As social media fragments, marginalized voices gain more power

Janelle Salanga   Journalists work from a place of harm reduction

J. Siguru Wahutu   American journalism reckons with its colonialist tendencies

Mauricio Cabrera   It’s no longer about audiences, it’s about communities

Kirstin McCudden   We’ll codify protection of journalism and newsgathering

Eric Thurm   Journalists think of themselves as workers

Dannagal G. Young   Stop rewarding elite performances of identity threat