A pair of longtime journalists announced last week the launch of “NewsGuard,” an initiative intended to combat “fake news” online.
Steve Brill and Gordon Crovitz say NewsGuard will be hiring dozens of trained journalists to review 7,500 news and information websites widely read in the United States.
Its primary goal will be to provide reliability ratings and what Brill and Crovitz are calling “nutrition labels” for each news website. This comes five months after Facebook, Google, and Twitter committed to using “trust indicators” to help users better understand the reliability of content on their news feeds.
News outlets will receive stoplight-style ratings of green, yellow, or red—with green being the best rating and red being the worst.
The “nutrition labels” will take the form of write-ups to allow readers to learn more about why websites received their green, yellow, or red rating. The labels will explain the history of the site, who owns it, and who edits it, and make transparent other relevant factors, such as financing.
All sites receiving yellow or red ratings will be asked to comment on their ratings. The responses will be included in their respective “nutrition labels.”
The ratings and “nutrition labels” will be subject to change.
“In addition to alerting people to fake news,” Crovitz said, “one of our key goals is to help consumers, including young people, know when to take news from certain sites with a grain of salt.”
As NewsGuard’s senior editors, Brill is the author of two best-selling books and founded the American Lawyer magazine and the now-defunct Brill’s Content magazine, as well as Court TV, while Crovitz is a writer, editor, and columnist for The Wall Street Journal editorial page and former publisher of the Journal.
Other top-ranking editors include James Warren, who will serve as executive editor, and Eric Effron, who will be the managing editor.
Warren served as Washington bureau chief and managing editor of the Chicago Tribune, and most recently was the chief media writer for the Poynter Institute. Warren is a frequent television commentator on politics nationally and in Chicago. Effron served as the editor in charge of company news and legal editor at Reuters, executive editor of The Week magazine, and editor and publisher of Legal Times.
NewsGuard expects most or all 7,500 sites will be reviewed with the accompanying “nutrition labels” before the 2018 midterm elections.
NewsGuard plans to supply browser plug-in versions of the software free of charge to news-literacy groups, school and university systems, and individual consumers.
“We know we are not a solution to everything bad that is happening online,” said Brill, “but we are confident that we will add an important layer of protection for users, advertisers, for the platforms, and for the country while allowing the platforms to remain out of the editorial business.”
“At a time when our nation’s lead intelligence officials are warning that foreign powers will continue trying to meddle in elections by spreading fake news,” he added, “we think it is all the more important to allow Americans to make informed choices about the information that they consume online.”
More information on NewsGuard’s investors, an explanation of its ratings, and sample “nutrition labels” can be found on its website.