Fake Bylines Cause Stir in US News Industry

A company created to provide local news to media outlets nationwide has taken responsibility this week for using false bylines on news reports that were in turn sold to major newspapers across the country, but the company assured concerned parties that the practice was not large in scale.

Brian Timpone is the founder and chief executive of Journatic, a news gathering company that compiles local news such as community events, real estate deals, police incidents along with other current events and then sells that news to various publications.

"It works like an assembly line: one person does research, another generates a lead, another writes it. Sometimes a couple of paragraphs might be written by a computer, using an algorithm, and someone else edits it. The goal is to create the largest local news machine ever," according to Sarah Koeing of NPR's This American Life.

Timpone explained that only a few fake names had ended up on websites of three publications.

"It's very minimal, and it's being portrayed as something more widespread, because it's not," Timpone told AFP.

But while Journatic may provide a cheap alternative, there are many in the industry that are still committed to bringing high-quality and accurate news to its readers.

The Poynter Institute, a media watchdog, was told by several editors of The Chicago Sun-Times and GateHouse Media, who own numerous local newspapers, that they would no longer use Journatic's news services.

"It is essential that our news report, no matter the source, is accurate and credible," said Gerould Kern, editor of the Chicago Tribune and investor in Journatic.

Defending his company, Timpone stressed that his company was still new and that they are continuing to strive to the highest standard.

"We're a small, very fast-growing company," he said. "We're not perfect, and we weren't perfect here ... I take it seriously because I want to live up to the standard of our clients."