Palmer Report is launching an editorial investigation into the activities of NewsGuard. I want to give you a chance to respond to the various suspicious and seemingly fraudulent aspects of your company’s behavior over the past three months. Please provide answers to these questions if possible:
1) In your launch announcement you claimed that you were doing “research” into the factual accuracy of news outlets and their reporting. Yet you made a priority of asking me to respond to what my “critics” have to say about me. You appear to be trying to concoct a smear job against me by citing the opinions of these (conveniently unidentified) “critics” rather than doing any fact checking of your own. How are the opinions of “critics,” or my response to those “critics,” in any way relevant to your supposed mission statement of researching factual accuracy?
2) You’ve only singled out two Palmer Report articles in our communications. One of those two articles was famously (and incorrectly) attacked by disgraced “fact checking” site Snopes, which has fallen under a cloud of controversy since its mysterious shift in ownership in 2015, and which has since been exposed by Forbes Magazine for using no identifiable fact checking standards at all. Rather than doing your own direct research, you appear to be simply piggybacking on the least reputable “fact checking” site on the internet. What is NewsGuard’s relationship with Snopes? Are you coordinating or partnering with them? What communications have you had, if any, with Snopes and its staff?
3) NewsGuard managed to elicit blind praise from a number of major news outlets before publishing any of its work, or revealing any of its supposed methodology. Their most logical motivation for blindly throwing their weight behind your empty venture would be the expectation that your success will gain them a competitive advantage, more specifically that your efforts will help to sabotage the smaller independent news outlets that often embarrass them by beating them on important stories. What communications have you had with the major news outlets and reporters who have written these puff pieces about you? What conversations have you specifically had with them about how the success of NewsGuard might help them competitively? Fair warning, we’ll also be asking every one of the authors of these puff pieces, and their editors.
4) The most legitimate fact checking sites, such as PolitiFact and FactCheck org, do not tend to be particularly profitable. Yet NewsGuard has managed to obtain millions in seed money from “investors” who clearly expect a profitable return on their investment. What have you specifically told these investors with regard to how you plan to turn a profit in an unprofitable field? To date, the only “fact checking” sites to turn a major profit have been those such as the new iteration of Snopes, which routinely makes false and misleading accusations about perfectly legitimate news articles in order to generate controversy – and thus page views – where no such controversy exists. What conversations have you had with your investors about how you plan to generate enough page views to justify their investment?
5) Your launch announcement repeatedly claimed that your mission is to identify and expose “fake news.” One of the examples cited on your website is the Denver Guardian, a site whose sole purpose is to publish fictional stories made up out of whole cloth. Yet you have falsely accused Palmer Report, in writing, of “exaggerated headlines” that were clearly and demonstrably justified by the accompanying articles and the underlying facts and evidence. It appears your goal is to falsely equate legitimate and highly accurate independent news outlets like Palmer Report with fake news sites like the Denver Guardian in the minds of your audience. Surely you’re aware that legitimate news outlets falsely being accused of being “fake news” has become a larger epidemic in 2018 than fake news sites ever were. What is your moral justification for attempting to further confuse the public on this matter?
6) Are you the “Evan Haddad” who has previously written for two different Russia-based news outlets? If so, considering that the widespread reporting that the bulk of “fake news” on social media has been coming from Russia during and since the election cycle, do you feel it’s appropriate not to disclose your own connections to Russian news sites when you’re contacting American news sites and falsely accusing them of publishing fake news?
7) You attempted to get me on the telephone. When I declined, you then revealed via email that you were merely asking me four brief questions, and seeking my responses, presumably for background and/or publication. In such case, why did you initially seek to do this over the phone? This strongly suggests that you weren’t interested in my responses, as the telephone is the least reliable and verifiable method for obtaining such responses. Was this an initial attempt at avoiding having to put your false and misleading accusations about Palmer Report in writing? If not, then what was your specific motivation for trying to get me on the phone, for a conversation that was clearly not best suited for the phone?
8) Your recently published “rating” of Palmer Report falsely accuses us of “repeatedly publishing false content.” This is a demonstrably false, and easily disproven, claim on your part. You’ve also falsely accused us of failing to correct errors, another another disproven false claim on your part. You’ve falsely accused us of failing to separate news and opinion content, even though we helpfully to explained to you long ago that we have entirely different – and clearly labeled – sections for this. What is your oversight process for catching and correcting blatant errors in your own work? How soon can we expect this, and other false claims about Palmer Report, to be removed from your website? On which page of your website will you be posting a retraction of these false claims about Palmer Report?
9) Your “review” of Palmer Report consists almost entirely of quoting false and disproven claims about us made by larger competing news outlets who were dishonestly retaliating against us because they got tired of getting beaten to the punch by us. Why are you passing competitive libel as if it were a legitimate assessment of a news outlet? If you were reviewing Coca-Cola, would you allow quotes from Pepsi corporation to make up the bulk of your review? How do you respond to the perception that you’re merely acting as a shill for larger corporate news outlets, by repeating their lies about smaller competing news outlets?
10) In your review of Palmer Report, you cite “Media Bias Fact Check” as if it were a legitimate fact checking site. Media Bias Fact Check is a slapdash site thrown together by one guy with an axe to grind; it’s widely regarded as one of the punchlines of the internet. He’s been caught copy-pasting entire chunks from Wikipedia in his “reviews.” He’s been caught lowering the “bias ratings” of sites in retaliation, after they’ve exposed his lack of methodology. How do you justify citing this individual’s plainly fraudulent work, as if his it were legitimate? What is the nature of your partnership with this individual?
11) As the bulk of your “research” has clearly been cribbed from certain other fact checking sites, do you explain your extremely low rating of Palmer Report, given that the two most reputable fact checking sites – PolitiFact and FactCheck org – have never accused Palmer Report of being anything less than accurate? While piggybacking your work off existing fact checkers, why are you ignoring the assessments of the most reputable fact checkers, and only clinging to the most disgraced of fact checkers?
12) NewsGuard is promoting its assessment system by pushing concepts like legitimacy, transparency, and trust. You claim to be using an army of qualified people to do your own “research” into news publications, yet you appear to be simply piggybacking on the work of some other notoriously controversial “fact checking” sites. NewsGuard claims to be fighting “fake news” yet you’ve already been caught falsely accusing perfectly legitimate news articles of being fake, and then trying to create further controversy by quoting the reactions of the news outlets you’ve lied about. Given the above circumstances, why should anyone trust that NewsGuard is anything more than the latest shady attempt at capitalizing on the public’s existing paranoia over “fake news” by further muddying the waters?
Keep in mind that we have the original email from you, which proves the lack of professionalism and lack of original research involved in your ratings process. Please provide your answers to the above questions as swiftly as possible.
NewsGuard is committed to correcting errors promptly and transparently. However, this letter does not point to any specific errors.
As for our process, we are fully transparent about who we are and what we do. The criteria we use to review sites can be found on our website here.
The steps we take to earn trust are set out here. And the professional backgrounds and experience for all staff and contributors can be found here.