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Pink slime news: The West Cook News and beyond

Pink slime is a meat byproduct that is used as filler in processed meats and is often passed off as higher-quality meat in fast food restaurants. Pink slime news is just as bad when it comes to feeding the American mind.

Pink slime news, a term coined by journalist Ryan Smith, is fake content that is passed off as real news.

Unfortunately, pink slime news has become more and more common over the past few years. Such websites publish poor-quality news reports that appear to be local news in order to push either a right-wing or left-wing agenda and gather user data.

Pink-slime news websites attempt to exploit people’s faith in local news, and capitalize on the information deserts created by declining local news. More than 1,600 such websites exist today in the United States, and the number is growing.

According to the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, many of these sites are financed by PACS and political party operatives. Although many of the websites claim to be unbiased, they often create and spread conservative political propaganda or disinformation. Conservative businessman Brian Timpone owns more than 1,300 of these websites, including The West Cook News, which brings us to how this issue of pink slime news ties into Princeton.

Even though many of the stories in the West Cook News read almost like parodies of real news, some of the stories are being linked to on social media and in comments on a petition calling for the superintendent of schools in Princeton to be fired, as we noted in our story Wednesday about the petition. The fake news stories from the West Cook News falsely claim that Princeton Superintendent Carol Kelley created a race-based grading system — a system that gives students a particular grade based on their race — during her tenure in the Oak Park schools in Illinois.

While some residents may have issues with Kelley’s performance as the superintendent in the Princeton Public Schools, everyone should beware that pink slime websites like the West Cook News don’t contain accurate information. It’s not healthy for a solid media diet, and it’s not healthy for constructive dialogue in Princeton.


  1. It’s really difficult to identify who is who when trying to get real information these days. How about investigative journalism? Do they still exist and are they even trustworthy?

    I am really interested to know.

  2. It probably makes sense for Princeton parents to concentrate on Princeton, but interested folks will find a better critical commentary on public education in Oak Park here: https://www.thee3group.org

    The website states that: “Equity and Excellence in Education, The E3 Group, is an ad hoc community group of Oak Park and River Forest, IL residents. It grew out of concern over significant changes in education, especially in curriculum and instruction. Through inquiry, analysis, outreach and occasional events the group is growing community understanding on topics relevant to school Districts 200, 90 and 97.”

    In addition, anyone who happens to be *extremely* interested in researching Dr. Kelley’s previous district can access its BOE meeting minutes here. https://www.op97.org/boe/approved-minutes

    Lots of fiber there, but unlike pink slime, fiber is wholesome and nutritious.

  3. “It’s not healthy for a solid media diet, and it’s not healthy for constructive dialogue in Princeton.” While journalists are always welcome to dig and push information out to the public, constructive dialogue is had when the journalism analyzes all sides of a story. Not mentioning the names of any left- wing “pink slime”outlets feeds well into this argument but does not present a balanced story for readers to have constructive dialogue about. The best dialogue will be had when breaking news outlets such as this present the full story rather than choose sides and be the story.

      1. Most may be conservative, but a) why does conservative = false? And b) you mention most, but not all, so why not mention the liberal ones? Because they don’t feed the dialogue you are pushing? Honest journalism doesn’t push an agenda. As one of the few local outlets covering the PPS/PHS story, you owe it to the community to just share information and stop pushing the side you support.

        1. The vast majority of the sites, more than 1,200 of the 1,600, are owned by this particular businessman, and the articles that residents keep linking to are from a conservative pink slime site that promotes disinformation and fake news, not a liberal pink slime site.

  4. Planet Princeton correctly identifies the challenge of “information deserts created by declining local news”. However, even biased and inflammatory sources can raise important and relevant questions. During Dr. Kelley’s time in Oak Park, was principal turn over a problem? Were curriculum changes implemented that sacrificed excellence for equity? Perhaps Planet Princeton will endeavor to provide answers to these important questions for Princeton parents.

  5. Thanks for this important update on factories of disinformation and promoters of violence. Who would have thought that some Princeton residents would be caught in these extremist, racist and male chauvinist spheres that throw confusion in order to destabilize democracy, and that it would work here ???how come do we end up with fellow residents being manipulated to the point of putting a recall attempt or petition againOutstanding female leaders with very strong credentials and decades of experience ??? Accusations are precisely the opposite of who they are and what they have done with their lives. The interim principal has a doctorate in education, as has Dr. Kelley, the latter has a degree in systems engineering from UPenn, she has worked at Bell labs, who would believe she is trying to sink the math curriculum?
    Reforming the math curriculum was demanded long ago, much before she was hired , mostly by white families and initiated by white members of the board btw. The demographic of the math non advanced (standard) level are currently majority white in the middle school. although it’s true that the board should not call in so many consultants, they did not adopt decisions based on the Milou report. (And truly, No mathematician has ever succeeded because they were in an advanced math class in 7th grade), differenciation has become the norm internationally and in education systems that are much more advanced and successful than ours. That is because some kids need more time, there are late bloomers and our children are just not robots. We can and should keep the advanced math curriculum and at the same time, the whole child should be considered, it should not be the norm to attend very advanced math classes or feel like a failure. What about advanced English/humanities curriculum at the high school?
    One parent is even denying the superintendent the very prerogatives and duties of her position. He is describing a “coup” , while she is indeed already in power, so that can’t possibly be a coup, just because he disagrees with her decisions. It is also becoming the norm today to recruit high school principals with a Doctorate in education, and btw the person who did – rightfully and repeatedly – mention that academic pressure was too high, and students should not take so many APs they are not interested in etc…is the former HS principal. So what’s going on in this town exactly?

  6. Is pink slime news really worth all the hand-wringing? Pink slime news sites don’t pretend to be what they are not. They don’t go for century-old logotypes that signal authority and authenticity, and usually sport a web design that looks like it was straight off the shelf from wix.com. For most people, the consumption of pink slime news leaves them with a feeling not too different from the one that hits you the moment you walk out of a fast food joint – temporarily satisfied but with a lingering sense of self-doubt or guilt mixed in. The fear that those who accidentally read a piece of pink slime news shared by a stranger online would swallow it hook, line and sinker seems condescending and not entirely rooted in the genuine concerns of fellow citizen’s information diet.

    Pink slime news sites didn’t emerge out of the absence of reliable news outlets. Rather, they exist in the absence of objectivity and curiosity that used to be supplied by reliable newsrooms. It turns out when supposedly serious news outlets with grand slogans like “all the news that fits to print” lowered their journalistic standards, anyone with a web registration can play the same bias confirmation game.

    1. They provide content that is factually false disinformation on purpose. That is the whole point about pink slime news. Some readers don’t realize that these sites peddle fake news.

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