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Poynter Removes Unreliable List Of ‘Unreliable News Websites’

Cropped Hand Holding Fake News In Digital Tablet
Nipitphon Na Chiangmai / EyeEm / Getty Images
 

Ouch, that’s embarrassing.

 

On Tuesday, the Poynter Institute published a list of allegedly “unreliable” news websites. The list included nearly every conservative media outlet and virtually no liberal media outlets. Within a day of publication, Poynter had to issue a correction and removed two websites from the list. Following more complaints, the organization has now removed the list entirely.

In a “letter from the editor” published Thursday, Poynter’s managing editor Barbara Allen apologized for the list, acknowledging that it was itself unreliable.

Allen first explained how the list was created, which consisted of other lists created by biased “journalists” and “fact-checkers,” such as Snopes and Politifact. The intention of the list was to help others – such as advertisers – boycott allegedly “unreliable” news websites by allowing them “to gauge the legitimacy of the information they were consuming.”

As Allen notes, it was not just websites on the list that complained, but also “readers who objected to the inclusion of certain sites, and the exclusion of others.” Poynter then decided to “audit” the list (as opposed to doing this before publication) and “found weaknesses in the methodology.” The organization “detected inconsistencies” between the original lists and their “own rendering” of the final version.

 

“Therefore, we are removing this unreliable sites list until we are able to provide our audience a more consistent and rigorous set of criteria. The list was intended to be a starting place for readers and journalists to learn more about the veracity of websites that purported to offer news; it was not intended to be definitive or all encompassing,” Allen wrote. “We regret that we failed to ensure that the data was rigorous before publication, and apologize for the confusion and agitation caused by its publication. We pledge to continue to hold ourselves to the highest standards.”

Poynter had already published a correction to the list shortly after it was put online, removing my former employer The Washington Examiner and Indian outlet FirstPost from the list.

 

“This index previously listed The Washington Examiner and FirstPost as unreliable news sources. After reviewing our methodology, we found that neither met the criteria for inclusion, so both were removed,” the correction read.

Read Allen’s full statement below:

Dear readers:

On Tuesday, April 30, Poynter posted a list of 515 “unreliable” news websites, built from pre-existing databases compiled by journalists, fact-checkers and researchers around the country. Our aim was to provide a useful tool for readers to gauge the legitimacy of the information they were consuming.

Soon after we published, we received complaints from those on the list and readers who objected to the inclusion of certain sites, and the exclusion of others. We began an audit to test the accuracy and veracity of the list, and while we feel that many of the sites did have a track record of publishing unreliable information, our review found weaknesses in the methodology. We detected inconsistencies between the findings of the original databases that were the sources for the list and our own rendering of the final report.

Therefore, we are removing this unreliable sites list until we are able to provide our audience a more consistent and rigorous set of criteria. The list was intended to be a starting place for readers and journalists to learn more about the veracity of websites that purported to offer news; it was not intended to be definitive or all encompassing. We regret that we failed to ensure that the data was rigorous before publication, and apologize for the confusion and agitation caused by its publication. We pledge to continue to hold ourselves to the highest standards.

— Barbara Allen, managing editor, Poynter.org

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