A journalism nonprofit that recently named LifeSiteNewsand numerous other mainstream, right-of-center websites as “unreliable” has apologized after days of public backlash, pledging to scrap their old criteria for more rigorous methodology.
The Poynter Institute, which trains writers and reporters, recently started the International Fact-Checking Network with a “UnNews” report purporting to identify “unreliable news websites.” But thanks in part to input by the notoriously anti-conservative Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the lists also identified numerous mainstream conservative websites as “UnNews,” including LifeSiteNews, Live Action, the Daily Caller, CNS News, the Daily Wire, PJ Media, The Blaze, and more.
Conservative sites made the list for various offenses. Some were labeled as “unreliable” for allegedly posting “deceptive content” and “fake news.” Some were labeled for “actively promot(ing) racism, misogyny, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination.” Others were criticized for being “clickbait” sites that “provide generally credible content, but use exaggerated, misleading, or questionable headlines, social media descriptions, and/or images.” A number of left-wing sites such as Alternet, ThinkProgress, and Splinter were initially on the list but removed.
Poynter Institute was criticized on social media for becoming a “far-left censor.”
CPAC – the Conservative Political Action Committee – tweeted: “The attack on the conservative internet has reached a new low. Poynter, the journalism institute responsible for training writers and reporters, decided to promote a left-wing smear of conservatives.” And broadcaster Lou Dobbs described Poynter as “Junkyard Attack Dogs” that “Pose as Watchdogs.” The Daily Signalobserved that Poynter went beyond its watchdog role, that “it wasn’t just here to provide information, but to encourage boycotts and blacklisting of conservative sites.”
Fox News reported that initially Poynter responded to condemnation of the list first by removing websites like the Washington Examinerand FirstPost, before pulling the list entirely.
“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,” Poynter managing editor Barbara Allen said. “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,” she wrote. “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,” Allen said. “We pledge to continue to hold ourselves to the highest standards.”
Yet concerns will likely remain over whatever revised list Poynter eventually releases, given that the fact-checking project was financed in part by the Open Society Foundations, which is owned by far-left activist billionaire George Soros.
A version of this story originally appeared May 3 at LifeSiteNews and is reprinted with permission.