More Than 500 Websites Improve their Journalism Trust Practices Through NewsGuard’s Rating Process
After Being Approached by NewsGuard, News Organizations Add Corrections Policies, Disclosure of Ownership and Financing, Staff Contact Information and More
(January 31, 2019) NewsGuard, a company that rates and reviews news and information websites using basic journalistic criteria for credibility and transparency, today announced that more than 500 websites have improved their journalism practices based on NewsGuard’s nine journalistic criteria—improving accountability for their news and paving the way for greater trust from their audiences.
“We created NewsGuard because we believe strongly that when news organizations are held to a high standard of accuracy and accountability, the result is good for both those news organizations and their readers,” said NewsGuard Co-CEO Steven Brill. “Our results thus far show that this is indeed the case. The most common side effect of what we do is for news organizations to improve their journalistic practices.”
NewsGuard employs a team of 35 trained journalists and experienced editors to assess and write reviews of news and information sites based on nine journalistic criteria, which are weighted for importance. Sites are assigned a “Green” trustworthy rating if they pass enough of the criteria—and are assigned a “Red” rating if they fail enough criteria, which signifies that readers should proceed with caution.
Before NewsGuard rates any website as having “failed” one of its nine criteria, it contacts the publication to give its proprietors a chance to comment, such as explaining how the site’s practices meet NewsGuard’s criteria. When NewsGuard began rating sites with this practice, many sites used the opportunity to improve their standards. The details of NewsGuard’s nine criteria are available at https://www.newsguardtech.com/ratings/criteria-for-and-explanation-of-ratings/
GateHouse Media, a conglomerate of local media brands, including hundreds of local newspapers in the United States, is one example of NewsGuard’s impact. After hearing from NewsGuard’s analysts, GateHouse changed the way it labeled sponsored content to provide more clarity to users and also and added information about its ownership to its template for hundreds of its local news websites.
“As trusted providers of local news, we care deeply about retaining that trust in a news environment where that is more important than ever,” said GateHouse Senior Vice President of Digital Jeff Moriarty. “Working with NewsGuard analysts, who have an understanding of best practices across the web, we made our standards and practices more prominent and consistent across our digital 460 news brands across the country.”
A selection among the publications whose websites have changed their practices through NewsGuard’s rating process include:
Newsweek, Yahoo! News and Gallup adopted clear standards and policies for publicly and prominently correcting any reporting errors.
Fortune, Reuters, NBCNews, Mail Online, Fast Company and The Western Journal added information about their staff and leadership.
Forbes and hundreds of sites owned by GateHouse Media such as the Providence Journal and dozens of sites owned by The McClatchy Company such as the Sacramento Bee added clearer labeling of sponsored content and links.
Washington Monthly, Percolately and AlterNet added information about their ownership or about their financing, such as disclosure of major donors or investors.
When sites make changes to their practices as a result of NewsGuard’s ratings process, NewsGuard updates its “Nutrition Labels” for those sites to reflect the change. In some cases, making improvements in transparency and credibility practices can change a site’s overall rating to Green from Red.
If following publication of the original rating and Nutrition Label, a change has been made to a website’s practices—or in the way NewsGuard assesses those practices—an explanation for that change in rating is typically found in an Editors’ Note below the revised Nutrition Label.
According to NewsGuard Co-CEO Gordon Crovitz, NewsGuard’s fully transparent criteria and disclosed review process are intended to invite sites to improve their practices. “NewsGuard is the opposite of an algorithm that determine which news is served to people on search and social media platforms today,” he said. “We reveal exactly how our process works, how our criteria are applied, and who’s responsible for each rating—something opaque algorithms don’t do. We call for comment—algorithms don’t call for comment.”
“We want people to ‘game the algorithm’ in a sense,” Brill said. “In order to game our system, a site has to improve its journalism standards. We think that’s a good thing.”
Launched in March 2018 by media entrepreneur Steven Brill and former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz, NewsGuard provides credibility ratings and detailed “Nutrition Labels” for thousands of news and information websites. They are conducted by trained analysts with diverse backgrounds, who review and describe the websites’ adherence to nine journalistic criteria. NewsGuard’s ratings are available through NewsGuard’s browser extension for Chrome, Safari, Edge and Firefox browsers and are displayed next to links in users’ search engine results and social media feeds. NewsGuard is also available through Microsoft Edge for iOS and Android devices. NewsGuard’s ratings are licensed by platforms in order to make NewsGuard’s information about news websites available to their users. For more information: www.newsguardtech.com.