Nieman Foundation at Harvard
Postcards and laundromat visits: The Texas Tribune audience team experiments with IRL distribution
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Aug. 8, 2023, 2:58 p.m.
Reporting & Production
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Laura Hazard Owen   |   August 8, 2023

When we talk about “pink slime” local news, we’re generally talking about online news — partisan local news sites funded by PACs or special interest groups, often located far from the communities they’re ostensibly covering. Many of these sites are run by the conservative Metric Media, which now claims more than 1,300 sites across the country. (Priyanjana Bengani has done great reporting on this for CJR.) The network is “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 New York Times reported in 2020.

On some occasions, Metric Media turns to print. Ahead of a Tuesday ballot initiative that could lead to abortion rights being blocked in the state, Ohio voters have received print copies of the Buckeye Reporter. It has a Chicago return address, was postmarked from Dallas, and includes a publisher’s note that reads, in part, “We’ve been publishing the Buckeye Reporter online for three years. This is our inaugural print edition.”


The mailer is a motley combination of content. Most of it consists of positive articles about Issue 1, the proposal to make it harder to amend the state constitution, describing its many Republican endorsers while unsubtly describing the measure’s opponents as communists and allies of the LGBTQ community. It also includes calendar listings of unremarkable community events, like a Aug. 1 social media summit hosted by a Columbus regional planning agency.

CJR’s Benjani told the AP that “Metric Media has printed similar mailers ahead of other recent high-stakes elections, such as a referendum on abortion last year in Kansas,” and The New York Times article from 2020 pictures some mailers from Chicago.

“Old school spam,” one Redditor wrote.

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