Response to NewsGuard ratings of States Newsroom websites (Jan. 29, 2020):
According to a recent Pew Research Center study, newsroom employment in the U.S. fell 25% between 2008 and 2018, with a 47% decline at newspapers. As a result, important state issues are under-covered, with real consequences for real people.
States Newsroom is bucking that trend and filling a gap in state and local news by delivering hard-hitting reporting and commentary to shine a spotlight on state government decision-making and ensure elected officials are being held accountable for the impacts that their decisions have on communities. In the last year, States Newsroom has grown from 9 to 15 outlets, added a Washington, DC, bureau and has hired award-winning journalists from some of the nation’s leading legacy media outlets such as The Des Moines Register, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and more.
While we share similar goals to other media organizations, our model is very different. We are a nonprofit, philanthropic endeavor.
All of our work is free. We will never put content behind a paywall or create a roadblock to readers like a subscription service for premium content. We don’t run ads of any kind. We don’t accept corporate donations or underwriting, which is the financial backbone of many nonprofit news organizations.
We have decided to not disclose our grassroots donors or philanthropic supporters. That’s similar to how many other 501(c)(3) organizations operate.
While we respect NewsGuard’s mission, we are concerned that as a for-profit startup they have adopted a flawed methodology that punishes innovative, fact-based organizations such as ours, while endorsing the work of outlets that promote conspiracy theories and white nationalism such as Breitbart, the Daily Caller, TheBlaze and FoxNews.com.
We urge NewsGuard to update their methodology and use their platform to stand up for real journalism and hold those who spread hate and misinformation accountable.
Response from NewsGuard CO-CEO Steven Brill:
We love local journalism, especially “hard hitting” journalism. We love philanthropic journalism. What we don’t love is politically-funded organizations with an undisclosed agenda and undisclosed funders posing as journalism.
I know that your reporters are well-credentialed and well-meaning. But their journalism is not “free.” It has been bought by people with a political agenda. At the least, your journalistic pedigrees should make you insist on disclosing who they are and what that agenda is – ie., that you are “hard hitting” as long as the hard hits don’t come at the expense of your funders’ political goals. Meantime, your lofty, deceptive pronouncements on your “about” pages are the kinds of claims that undermine the similar mission statements of real local newsrooms that have not been rented out to one political side or the other.
You’ve urged NewsGuard to “stand up for real journalism.” By identifying politically-funded, non-transparent organizations that use deceptive mission statements to pose as real journalism, that’s what we’re doing. You expect those you write about to come clean. So should you.