Picking the right news brand used to mean careful considerations, such as: ‘Does this brand align with my ethics?’, ‘Can I open this one on the tube without elbowing someone in the face?’, ‘Do I really need to see past this paywall?’ But no more – here to help with the decision on what to read/cite/trust/work with comes NewsGuard’s UK launch, rolled out midweek with traffic lights to lead the way.
The US news rating tool is simple – green is good, red is bad – and decided by nine key factors:
- Not repeatedly publishing false content
- Gathering and presenting information responsibly
- Regular corrections and clarifications (where necessary)
- Handling the difference between news and opinion responsibly
- Avoiding deceptive headlines
- Disclosing ownership and source(s) of financing
- Clearly labelling advertising
- Revealing who is in charge and any conflicts of interest
- Providing names of content creators with either contact or biographical information
Aside from a short stall with the MailOnline earlier this year – NewsGuard originally placed the brand as a red for its US product, later backtracking on the rating – the big UK news brands have, by and large, come out clean (well, green). Purely green reads include The Guardian, the Financial Times and Buzzfeed News UK, but the colour is also assigned to outlets that don’t get a full score across the nine factors.
These slightly fuzzier greens go to brands like BBC News (which failed on providing the names of content creators, and contact and biographical info), Sky News (not perfect on correcting and clarifying errors) and The Independent (issues with disclosing ownership and financing, and labelling its advertising, apparently).
As for the reds, PressGazette reports that Politicalite UK is the first to be publicly named.
Tastes may differ on which media outlets are most nourishing, but, according to Wikipedia co-founder and NewsGuard global advisory board member Jimmy Wales, NewsGuard offers a ‘unique tool for helping people understand who is feeding them the news’. And Wikipedia has form with this, having questioned the validity of Daily Mail reporting in the past (also backtracked, by the way).
It’s not just the usual suspects that have been classed as red or green, however, as 150 websites were reviewed by the news rating tool’s team for its UK launch – accounting for 90% of online engagement across the country, when it comes to traffic and social media statistics.
Not taken into consideration for each are issues like the arm span needed to open a print copy, or whether you should be embarrassed to be found with it on your mobile screen during the commute. But trustworthiness? That’s what everyone in the media, those working with it and those looking to consume it, need to be aware of.
A NewsGuard-commissioned YouGov poll for the launch found that nine in ten of those surveyed believe misleading information online is a problem. There’s proof of that easily found in the real-life impact of the online anti-vaxxer movement as we watch it play out across school playgrounds and in the media (both red and green). There’s the rise of fake news and other disturbing trends, like, say, the enduring belief that Goofy is actually a cow (he isn’t).
Those looking for information – whether vital, or frivolous – deserve trustworthy sources, and in a world filled with misinformation, the easier it is to access them, the better.
Know which news brands you want to work with but don’t have the right contacts? You need the Vuelio Media Database, which lists over 1 million contacts, influencers and opportunities.