Statement by NewsGuard on the Updated Ratings for the Websites of Fox News and MSNBC
Ratings fall for both websites as the journalistic practices of their broadcasting operations lower the journalistic standards of the websites
(New York — July 22, 2022) NewsGuard this week updated its ratings and Nutrition Labels for FoxNews.com and MSNBC.com, the websites of two of the largest cable television news operations in the U.S. In both cases, NewsGuard analysts found there is now reduced adherence to the basic, apolitical journalistic standards for which NewsGuard’s team of analysts rates all the news and information websites that account for 98% of engagement in the U.S. For the first time since NewsGuard launched in 2018, both the Fox News and MSNBC sites are rated red, meaning they have earned an overall score of less than 60 out of 100. Their readers are urged to proceed with caution when they encounter content from these websites.
In the past, although the actual programming on each television outlet was often controversial and viewed critically by many, especially those with political views running counter to those featured on much of the programming, the content of the websites themselves was far less reflective of any such political agenda and did not include the regular spreading of false claims.
In both cases, NewsGuard analysts have now found that the most opinionated programming on the cable outlets, often based on clearly false claims, is now so extensively published and heavily promoted on the websites that a significant portion of the websites content fails to adhere to basic journalistic practices. Videos and transcripts of the publisher’s broadcast shows are now widely available and promoted on these websites, as are website articles that paraphrase or highlight content that was televised, usually by its most prominent opinion hosts.
In the case of Fox News, its Nutrition Label observes that there is high-quality news coverage on the site, including from news reporting by its news broadcasters, such as from the war zone in Ukraine. But the label also details numerous false and misleading factual claims on topics including the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, U.S. elections, and COVID-19, on shows hosted by Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Maria Bartiromo, and Jeanine Pirro. Thus, this week’s update found that the site no longer meets NewsGuard’s standard for regularly correcting and clarifying errors because it fails to correct numerous examples of false claims by the hosts. The site now has a point score of 57 out of 100.
Similarly, the MSNBC label refers to strong journalism on the website, including from news reporters on air, particularly those hosting or appearing on the cable network’s daytime programs. But again, the label describes many examples of false and misleading claims by MSNBC opinion hosts such as Rachel Maddow and Joe Scarborough. These include false claims made by the hosts on topics such as the Georgia abortion law, fraud charges against Steve Bannon, and the Kyle Rittenhouse prosecution. In addition, articles written for the MSNBC website wrongly declared that New York Post stories about Hunter Biden’s laptop were false (and have continued to be published uncorrected on the site). The update to the MSNBC label found that the site now fails the NewsGuard criterion for gathering and presenting information responsibly. (It had already been found to fail on the criterion related to corrections practices.) The site now has a point score of 52 out of 100.
NewsGuard always seeks pre-publication comment from every website when its rating or an update of its rating might include a negative determination for any criterion. In the case of both websites, NewsGuard analysts repeatedly attempted to seek comment on failure to meet our criteria. For these updates we made 13 attempts to contact officials at Fox News and also 13 attempts to contact officials at MSNBC. In all cases, our calls and emails were not answered, as is also explained in the updated Nutrition Label for each.
Of the more than 8,000 websites NewsGuard has rated, more than 1,000 have made changes to their journalistic practices after engaging with NewsGuard analysts, who, again, contact all publishers before issuing a negative rating on any criterion. This includes many websites that have improved their scores from red ratings to green ratings, such as the DailyBeast.com and WesternJournal.com. We continue to be eager to engage in those discussions with FoxNews.com and MSNBC.com.
“When we began rating the trustworthiness of news websites in 2018, we did not find that content from the cable operations of these websites significantly reduced the websites’ overall adherence to journalistic standards,” said NewsGuard Co-CEO Steven Brill. “But with false and often uncorrected claims by opinion hosts becoming so much a part of these websites, the result is that readers online now need to be more cautious about believing claims on these sites.”
“There is a critical role for opinion journalism in a vibrant free market for ideas,” said NewsGuard Co-CEO Gordon Crovitz, a long-time editorial writer and opinion columnist for The Wall Street Journal. “But there is also a role for NewsGuard to play in informing readers who see articles published on these websites that what they are about to read might be opinion journalism spreading false factual claims in order to promote an agenda.”
- Details about the NewsGuard process for rating websites and the fully disclosed and transparent criteria can be accessed here.
- The current rating for FoxNews.com can be accessed here.
- The current rating for MSNBC.com can be accessed here.
Launched in March 2018 by media entrepreneur and award-winning journalist 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. NewsGuard rates all the news and information websites that account for 95% of online engagement across the U.S., Canada, U.K., Germany, France, and Italy. NewsGuard products include NewsGuard, HealthGuard, and BrandGuard, which helps marketers concerned about their brand safety, and the Misinformation Fingerprints catalog of top hoaxes.
NewsGuard’s ratings are conducted by trained journalists using nine apolitical criteria of journalistic practice, including whether a news source repeatedly publishes false content, whether it regularly corrects or clarifies errors, and whether it avoids deceptive headlines. Based on the criteria, each source receives an overall rating, a trust score of 0-100, a score on each of the nine criteria, and a detailed “Nutrition Label” explaining the rating and providing examples of the site’s editorial practices. Advertisers, advertising agencies and advertising tech companies license NewsGuard’s ratings to direct their programmatic advertising toward legitimate journalism and avoid misinformation.
For more information, including how to download the browser extension and review the ratings process, visit newsguardtech.com.
- Steven Brill, Co-CEO, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Gordon Crovitz, Co-CEO, email@example.com