A news or information website is rated GREEN if its content is produced by people who are trying to communicate news, information, and opinion that they believe is accurate, and who adhere to practices aimed at assuring basic standards of accuracy as well as accountability. A site is rated RED if it fails to meet these minimum standards.
As explained below, NewsGuard uses 11 specific criteria to evaluate these possible points of failure. We start with the premise that a site should be GREEN until our evaluation of the site, based on those 11 criteria, produces a RED rating.
These determinations will be made through reporting by NewsGuard’s analysts, who will be experienced journalists supervised by editors with significant experience in the profession. Two analysts will independently review and assess the content and processes of each site, with any disagreements resolved by the executive editor, managing editor, and editor in chief. In all cases, the identities and backgrounds of the analysts reviewing the site, as well as those of the supervising editors, will be completely transparent, as will any disagreements that were discussed as the rating was determined.
It should be noted that the only attribute that sites rated GREEN have in common is that they did not fail to meet the test of enough of the 11 criteria that they should be rated RED. Not all sites rated GREEN are equal. As our Nutrition Label write-ups will indicate, some are much fairer and more accurate in their reporting than others. Some are more transparent and accountable than others. Some are more robustly staffed and regularly produce superior content, while others struggle with tight budgets. Some focus on reporting the news, while others have a mission based on a political or other point of view that they unabashedly support. NewsGuard’s mission is not to make granular judgments but to establish and communicate adherence to basic standards in order to give readers information they need to assess their sources of information online. Again, the Nutrition Labels attempt to convey those differences, while the GREEN-RED rating provides a more basic, binary distinction. Put simply, RED-rated sites fail the test of the key criteria and sometimes even all 11.
The 11 Factors
Here are the 11 indicators that NewsGuard uses in determining if a provider is rated RED. A site that fails to adhere to a preponderance of these indicators will be rated RED. No site must adhere to all of the indicators to be rated GREEN.
In every case the NewsGuard Nutrition Labels that are provided for each site (by clicking on the rating) spell out the site’s adherence to each of the 11 indicators that yielded that source’s particular rating.
The 11 indicators below are listed in order of their importance in determining a RED rating. For example, failure to adhere to the first indicator –professional standards – will be far more influential in determining a RED rating than failure to participate in the Trust Project’s program of self-reporting adherence to transparency standards.
- Lacks Basic Professional Standards: The content of the site is not created by reporters, writers, videographers, researchers, or other information providers who generally seek to be accurate and fair in gathering, reporting and interpreting information, even if they approach their reporting and interpreting of information with a strong point of view.
- Hidden Mission: Whether, if the site purports to be a provider of news, it regularly fails to separate and label opinion or commentary in order to distinguish it from news reports; or whether, if the site is a content provider with a distinct, deliberate point of view or mission, it does not communicate that on an accessible place on the site, such as in the “About” section.
- Publishing Fake News: In the last three years the site has produced more than one article that has been declared “false” or “fake” by one or more non-partisan fact checking organizations.
- Lack of Financial Disclosure: The ownership and financing of the site is not made clear through user-friendly disclosure, typically in an “About” section of the website.
- Hidden Advertising: The site does not make clear which content is paid for and which is not.
- Deceptive Headlines: The site frequently publishes headlines that significantly sensationalize or otherwise do not reflect what is actually in the story.
- Lack of Accountability: Whether the site lacks effective practices for considering complaints and publishing complaints and corrections.
- Failure to Reveal Who’s In Charge: The site does not make clear who is in charge of its content and how that person can be contacted.
- Information about reporters and writers: The backgrounds of those producing the content are not made accessible on the site.
- Non-Participation in Trust Project: The site, if it is a news site, does not participate in the Trust Project [https://www.scu.edu/ethics/focus-areas/journalism-ethics/programs/the-trust- project], a consortium of news publishers organized by researchers at Santa Clara University that has established a voluntary program for sites to self-report their adherence to the Trust Project’s “Trust Indicators”.
- Inaccurate Reporting to the Trust Project: The site participates in the Trust Project, but its self-reporting is materially inaccurate.
NOT YET RATED:
If a source is not yet rated, it means that NewsGuard does not know enough about the source for it to be rated.
It could be that the source is not among the list of the top 7,500 sources of news and information that are the most used and shared by users in the United States, all of which NewsGuard will have reviewed and rated. In that case, if publishers or readers would like NewsGuard’s analysts to rate a source not yet rated, they can request to be reviewed and rated.
Or it could be that the source is currently being reviewed by NewsGuard but that our analysts have not yet gathered enough information to rate it responsibly.
No positive or negative inference should be inferred from the fact that a source has not yet been rated.
|Meets basic professional standards|
|Keeps to and discloses mission|
|Doesn’t publish fake news|
|Clearly labels advertising|
|Avoids deceptive headlines|
|Satisfactory accountability practices|
|Reveals who’s in charge|
|Provides information about writers and reporters|
|Participates in the Trust Project|
|Accurately reports to the Trust Project|