Poynter pulls blacklist of 'unreliable' news websites after backlash

Poynter pulls blacklist of 'unreliable' news websites after backlash
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The Poynter Institute has apologized for publishing a list of 515 news websites it deemed "unreliable" after backlash from readers and on social media regarding "weaknesses in the methodology" used by the nonprofit publication.

The index was compiled from “fake news” databases curated by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at University of Southern California, Merrimack University, PolitiFact, Snopes and data designer Chris Herbert. Publications originally on the list included the Washington Examiner and the Washington Free Beacon.

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"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," Poynter managing editor Barbara Allen wrote in an explanation behind the piece that was pulled off the site on Thursday.

“We regret that we failed to ensure that the data was rigorous before publication, and apologize for the confusion and agitation caused by its publication,” Allen added. “We pledge to continue to hold ourselves to the highest standards."

Allen said that Poynter launched the audit to test the veracity of the list and that while it felt that many of the sites "did have a track record of publishing unreliable information," the review also "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," she said in the statement.

The language in the original story also called on advertisers to "blacklist" the sites selected for the list.

"Fake news is a business. Much of that business is ad-supported,” Poynter researcher Barrett Golding wrote in the report. “Aside from journalists, researchers and news consumers, we hope that the index will be useful for advertisers that want to stop funding misinformation.”

Reaction on Twitter was swift, which included criticism from journalists whose publication were included on the list.