NewsGuard under fire: Balancing credibility and controversy in modern journalism


In an era marked by rampant misinformation and polarized media landscapes, NewsGuard has emerged as both a champion of credible journalism and a lightning rod for controversy. Founded in 2018 by Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz, the company aims to rate the reliability of news websites based on transparent, objective criteria. However, NewsGuard’s mission has been challenging, facing legal battles, accusations of political bias and public criticism from high-profile figures like Elon Musk. In this exclusive interview with E&P Magazine, Brill and Crovitz discuss these controversies, their steadfast commitment to promoting trustworthy news, and their insights on the future of credible journalism amid the ever-evolving media landscape.

Addressing legal challenges
NewsGuard has not been without its controversies. One prominent issue discussed during this interview with Brill and Crovitz was the lawsuit involving The Daily Wire, a conservative news outlet. Brill clarified this matter, stating, “We haven’t been sued by the Daily Wire; they allege this elaborate conspiracy between the State Department and us. But the facts are the facts. We rate all news sites without any regard to politics.” He emphasized that NewsGuard’s ratings are based on objective criteria, not political bias. “If you actually did a tally of how we rate news sites, you would see that we rate conservative sites and liberal sites pretty much equally,’ Brill added.

Crovitz chimed in, pointing out the objectivity in their ratings, “The Daily Wire just happens to be a site that does unreliable stuff, and we’ve rated it that way. On the other hand, the National Review, which is also conservative, gets very high ratings from us.”

Fighting against misinformation
The conversation also touched upon a lawsuit brought by a left-wing site, Consortium News, over NewsGuard’s rating. “The only lawsuit we’re involved in has been brought by a left-wing site that complained because we said they were unreliable due to their stance on the Ukrainian war,” Brill explained. He explained this highlights NewsGuard’s non-partisan approach to rating news sources, underscoring that their evaluations are based on reliability and not political alignment.

Transparency and objectivity
One of NewsGuard’s core missions is to provide transparency in their ratings. Brill explained their methodology, stating, “What we do is provide advertisers with information through an elaborate nutrition label, which is 4,000 or 5,000 words long, explaining exactly why we have rated a site the way we've rated it. It's not simply a bunch of people sitting around saying, ‘Oh, I don't like those guys. Let's give them a low rating.’” This detailed approach allows advertisers and readers to make informed decisions based on comprehensive and transparent evaluations.

Crovitz emphasized the importance of this transparency, “Advertisers, their ad agencies, they can make their own decisions. We don’t get involved in those decisions. Some advertisers are very comfortable advertising on the Daily Wire, and that’s fine.”

Facing criticism from high-profile figures
Elon Musk, a prominent figure in the tech industry, has been vocal about his opposition to NewsGuard. On his social media platform, X (formerly known as Twitter), Musk urged that the organization be disbanded immediately. Brill addressed this criticism with a sense of irony: “It’s a curious position for someone who says he’s a free-speech absolutist to come after disbanding a journalism company. How would it be… How would we be disbanded? What does that even mean?”

Crovitz elaborated on the importance of their work, “We are a journalism company committed to rating the credibility of news sources. Disbanding us would be a step backward in the fight against misinformation.”

On government helping local news media

During the interview, the topic of government assistance was discussed, such as the recent budget legislation being passed in both New York and Illinois offering tax credits for local journalists hired. Steven Brill emphasized the importance of maintaining journalistic independence while acknowledging the potential benefits of government support. “Government assistance can provide much-needed financial stability for local journalism, but it’s crucial that this support does not come with strings attached that could compromise editorial independence,” Brill stated. He underscored the delicate balance between accepting help and preserving the integrity of the press, adding, “We need to ensure that any government involvement is transparent and strictly limited to financial aid, without influencing the content or direction of journalistic work.”

Gordon Crovitz echoed similar sentiments, highlighting local journalism's critical role in communities and the challenges it faces. “Local journalism is the backbone of informed communities, but many local news outlets are struggling to survive,” Crovitz said. He pointed out that government assistance could help sustain these vital institutions but stressed the need for safeguards. “Any government support should be designed to protect the independence and impartiality of the press. We must avoid scenarios where funding could be used as leverage to sway reporting or editorial decisions,” Crovitz concluded, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a free and independent press as essential to democracy.



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