Fox News and MSNBC 'fail to adhere to basic journalistic standards', says credibility rater Newsguard

Fox News and MSNBC 'fail to adhere to basic journalistic standards', says credibility rater Newsguard

Fox News NewsGuard

Update, 22/7/22: Newsguard has now revised down the credibility scores for both Fox News and rival liberal network MSNBC.

The media watchdog updated its score for MSNBC on Thursday to say that, like Fox News, it “does not gather and present information responsibly”. (Disclosure: the author of this story, Bron Maher, was formerly a Newsguard employee.)

MSNBC’s new score is now five points lower than conservative Fox News, the network’s long-time ideological and commercial opponent.

In its updated review, Newsguard fact-checked MSNBC videos and articles which made false or unsubstantiated claims that, for example, Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse carried a gun across state lines and that the New York Post’s acquisition of Hunter Biden’s laptop was “the product of a Russian intelligence operation”.

Newsguard now sanctions MSNBC on the same credibility criteria it wrote Fox up for: not meeting its standards for publishing corrections, disclosing its liberal political stance and “gathering and presenting information responsibly”. The network had already failed the corrections and political disclosure criteria prior to Thursdsay.

Unlike Fox however, MSNBC also fails the company’s “reveals who’s in charge” criterion because it “does not identify website or network leaders”.

Like with Fox, Newsguard says it contacted MSNBC officials repeatedly but did not receive a response.

In a statement published to its website, Newsguard’s co-chief executive Steve Brill said: “With false and often uncorrected claims by opinion hosts becoming so much a part of these websites, the result is that readers online now need to be more cautious about believing claims on these sites.”

Gordon Crovitz, the other co-chief executive, said: “There is a critical role for opinion journalism in a vibrant free market for ideas. But there is also a role for Newsguard to play in informing readers who see articles published on these websites that what they are about to read might be opinion journalism spreading false factual claims in order to promote an agenda.”

The reviews for Fox News and MSNBC – which typically require access to the Newsguard browser extension to read – have been made available on the company’s website.

Press Gazette has approached MSNBC for comment.

Newsguard MSNBC
Screenshot of MSNBC website with Newsguard review preview

Original story, 21/7/22: Fox News’ credibility score has been downgraded to “red” by media watchdog Newsguard, meaning it “fails to adhere to several basic journalistic standards”.

Fox has had an overall passing score since the ratings agency launched in 2018.

Newsguard garnered headlines in early 2019 for giving a “red” rating to Mail Online – that rating was soon reversed, and the site now sports a green rating.

Fox had already failed one major criteria – “gathers and presents information responsibly” – prior to 18 July, when the rating was downgraded.

Why did Newsguard downgrade the Fox News score?

The score dropped further this week because Newsguard ruled that Fox’s website no longer met its standard for publishing corrections.

Newsguard writes in its updated review for Fox News: “In previous reviews of foxnews.com, Newsguard found that while the site had published false claims on significant topics that were uncorrected, that because foxnews.com regularly published other corrections, and because the false claims did not appear to occur frequently, foxnews.com did not fail Newsguard’s standard for having effective corrections practices.”

Now, however, the credibility rater says it has found “that foxnews.com published uncorrected significantly false claims at a much more frequent rate than in previous reviews”.

Many of these false claims appeared in Fox’s coverage of Covid-19 and the outcome of the 2020 US presidential election, Newsguard said.

The preview for Newsguard’s updated Fox News review

Asked to comment on the revision, Fox News Media said: “Newsguard is a for-profit organisation operating under the guise of an objective public service. Their management and editorial teams rely heavily on left-leaning sourcing to attempt to silence diversity of thought in the media.

“Fox News is proud of the coverage we provide our dedicated viewers, which is why we attract the most politically diverse audience in cable news.”

What is Newsguard?

Newsguard publishes what it calls “Nutrition Labels” – reviews of news websites scored using nine criteria, each of which carries a number of points.

Meeting the company’s standard for disclosing ownership, for example, carries 7.5 points. Not “repeatedly publishing false content” carries 22. A site that passes all criteria gets a full score of 100 points, and anything below 60 constitutes a “red” overall failing score.

Fox News dropped 12.5 points on Monday when its score was revised, and now has a total of 57.

Fox also fails Newsguard’s standards for “gathering and presenting information responsibly”, the company says, because it “has advanced false and misleading claims about topics including the Jan 6 2021 attack on the US Capitol, the Russia-Ukraine war, Covid-19 and US politics.”

Its third and final fail, for “responsibly handling the separation of news and opinion”, was given because Newsguard says it “does not distinguish between news and opinionated video content on a section of the homepage, occasionally publishes unlabelled opinion and frequently covers US political and cultural stories from a conservative perspective that it does not disclose”.

Newsguard says it sent seven emails to a Fox News spokesperson between September 2021 and June 2022 seeking comment on its claims, but did not receive a reply even after phoning them.

Newsguard generates revenue by selling access to its ratings. Consumers can pay a subscription for access to its full reviews detailing how far news sites uphold basic journalistic standards.

The for-profit company also sells its ratings to advertisers concerned about placing branded material on sites that publish false information.

It is unclear whether the change to Fox News’ score will affect advertising on the site. Newsguard’s passing grade for Fox has been the subject of prolonged criticism from activist groups including Check My Ads, which campaigns to get advertising money off “hate and disinformation outlets”.

Launching another brand safety initiative last month, marketing executive Ruben Schreurs told Press Gazette that “for as long as I live” Fox News would not be on the effort’s list of safe sites.

[Read more: News websites rated ‘red’ by Newsguard could miss out on ad money after agency deal]

Picture: Screenshot of foxnews.com

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