The term “fake news” might have been coined by President Trump, but the American Left has adopted it with enthusiasm. With most journalists leaning left, the mainstream media has been one of the most enthusiastic cheerleaders of this trend, which isn’t a surprise. After all, with their own biased coverage increasingly seen as propaganda, it’s in their interests to smear the competition. Now they’re facing pushback, though, as one of the biggest lists of “fake news organizations” has been taken offline following complaints.
On May 2nd, the Florida-based Poynter Institute announced that, following multiple accusations of bias, its list of “unreliable news websites” had been taken offline. Many leftists viewed the Poynter list as the best online resource of which news sources to ignore; its public demolition is a big blow to the intellectual bubble they live in.
- The Poynter Institute is a nonprofit journalism school and research organization based in St. Petersburg, Florida. Although it’s located next to a University of South Florida campus, it doesn’t have anything to do with that school. It was originally set up in 1975 by the owner of the St. Petersburg Times and now owns the Times Publishing Company.
- Political fact-checking has always been one of the Poynter Institute’s interests. The organization set up and runs the PolitiFact.com website, which is regularly accused of bias by both conservatives and liberals — but the site does seem to lean liberal on most issues.
- On April 30th, Poynter posted a list of 515 new websites that it claimed were “unreliable.” Most of the sites it named were conservative or libertarian — relatively few were left-leaning. Among the targeted news outlets were the Washington Free Beacon and the Washington Examiner, among other quality conservative sites.
- While a lot of the list really was made up of fake news sites, many reliable organizations immediately contacted the Poynter Institute to complain about their inclusion. At first Poynter stood by their list, but after two days of mounting fury from insulted right-wing journalists, they backed down.
- A “letter from the editor” published on Poynter.org on May 2nd made an astonishing admission: although one of Poynter’s supposed functions is journalistic research, they hadn’t actually done any! Instead, they’d simply cobbled their list together from others they’d found online.
- When the list blew up in their face and they actually did some belated fact-checking, Poynter found “weaknesses in the methodology” used by the lists they’d plagiarized. This adds up to another admission — that online lists of “fake news” sites are pretty fake themselves.
- Poynter is now claiming that their list was only a starting point for research — but it was originally published alongside an article urging advertisers not to spend money with the targeted sites. That sounds more like political activism than research; hopefully the people behind Poynter have learned a lesson from it.