Journalists and media entrepreneurs Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz have raised $6 million to launch a New York City- and Chicago-based news organization that will address the proliferation of fake news in the runup to the midterm elections.
With lead investments from Publicis Groupe and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, NewsGuard Technologies will hire dozens of trained journalists as analysts to review seventy-five hundred news and information websites in the United States and create "traffic-light" style reliability ratings for and "nutrition label" write-ups of each site. The ratings — green, yellow, and red — will include information on the history of the site, what it attempts to cover, who owns it, and who edits it, and will make transparent other relevant factors such as its financing, notable awards or missteps, and whether the publisher participates in programs such as the Trust Project or has been repeatedly found at fault by one of the established programs that check individual news articles.
In addition to rating the most-read and -shared sites, a separate team will be on call to receive and act on alerts about sites that are trending but that have not yet been rated — and determine whether a site was launched to promote fictitious, sensational stories. In addition, NewsGuard ratings and labels will be licensed to social media platforms and online search companies, as well as provided to interested consumers directly.
"Our goal is to help solve this problem now by using human beings — trained, experienced journalists — who will operate under a transparent, accountable process to apply basic common sense to a growing scourge that clearly cannot be solved by algorithms," said Brill, the author of two best-selling books and founder of numerous journalism enterprises, including The American Lawyer, Court TV, and Brill's Content magazine.
James Warren, who served as Washington bureau chief for and managing editor of the Chicago Tribune and most recently was chief media writer for the Poynter Institute, will serve as the organization's executive editor. Managing editor Eric Effron has served as editor-in-charge of company news and legal editor at Reuters, as executive editor of The Week, and as editor and publisher of Legal Times.
"The way news is displayed online, especially in social media, makes all news brands — both legitimate and fake — look the same," said Knight Foundation president Alberto Ibargüen. "NewsGuard will help restore the value of legitimate news by giving readers online more information about the sources they use or decide not to use."