By Dave Van Zandt
On April 30th, 2019, Poynter Institute published an article titled: UnNews: An index of unreliable news websites. This article provided a list of 515 websites that are deemed unreliable by five institutions. These include:
- FactCheck.org’s Misinformation Directory (FC), created by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
- Fake News Codex (FN), widely quoted by Snopes and others, maintained by web developer and data designer Chris Herbert.
- OpenSources (OS), run by Merrimack University media studies professor Melissa Zimdars.
- PolitiFact’s Fake News Almanac (PF), by PolitiFact, a joint project of the Tampa Bay Times and Poynter.
- Snopes’ Field Guide to Fake News Sites and Hoax Purveyors (SN), created by Snopes, the oldest and largest online fact-checking organization.
On May 3rd, 2019 this web page is no longer available, displaying a 404 Page not found message. You can still view the article and list via the Wayback Machine. Here is the screen shot of the page.
This list unleashed controversy and anger from conservative websites who claim it unfairly targets them. Here are links to some articles by right leaning sources:
- Journalism Institute Poynter Tries to ‘Blacklist’ 29 Conservative Outlets as ‘UnNews’ – Newsbusters
- Soros-backed journalism institute targets 29 conservative outlets in its ‘UnNews’ report – LifeSite
- A journalism advocacy group is trying to blacklist news websites, mostly those with a conservative editorial lean – Washington Examiner
We contacted Poynter to find out why they removed the article. A spokesperson, Tina Dyakon, stated there were a “combination of factors that led the editorial leadership to reconsider the publication of a list of websites. The list was compiled from five individual databases, each built on its own methodology. The aggregated database was intended to be the starting point of a project and rather caused confusion. When we realized this, we made the decision to remove the story.”
Poynter also published a letter from the editor that states “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.”
This is a developing story. We will add responses from media outlets as they become available.