Censoring Conservative Media: The Unreliable Poynter Institute

May 4th, 2019 4:00 PM

Fox News headlined the story this way: “Poynter forced to scrap 'unreliable news' list targeting conservative outlets after outcry.” 

That would be “Poynter” as in the “Poynter Institute”, which self-describes this way, bold print supplied for emphasis: 

“Mission & Vision

The Poynter Institute has grown from a storefront in sunny St. Petersburg, Florida, to the world’s most influential school for journalists.

Poynter is an instructor, innovator, convener and resource for anyone who aspires to engage and inform citizens. We serve not only 21st-century democracies, but those in corners of the globe where people who honor freedom and self-government struggle against tyrants and autocrats.

By supporting the Poynter Institute, you fortify journalism’s role in a free society. Poynter champions freedom of expression, civil dialogue and compelling journalism that helps citizens participate in healthy democracies. We prepare journalists worldwide to hold powerful people accountable and promote honest information in the marketplace of ideas.”

So in order to “champion freedom of expression” and  “hold powerful people accountable and promote honest information in the marketplace of ideas” Poynter compiled a blacklist - sorry, that would be “list” - of over 500 “unreliable” news sites that were “built from pre-existing databases compiled by journalists, fact-checkers and researchers around the country.” Mysteriously, Fox News reports this: 

“But a number of prominent conservative-leaning outlets were included in the “unreliable” category, including The Washington Examiner, Washington Free Beacon, Daily Caller and other publications that employ scores of journalists covering Congress, elections, the White House and more. The index was created with the help of an employee for the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

Well what do you know. Amazing. A Left-wing “journalism” institute has someone who works for the far-left (and currently deep-in-scandal) Southern Poverty Law Center compile this list of “unreliable” news sites and lo and behold there are listed all those “prominent conservative-leaning outlets” somehow, someway, turning up on the blacklist….er…sorry….list. Oh yes, I noted Newsmax on there, and full disclosure, I occasionally Skype at Newsmax. As with the other sites named above, Newsmax is indeed a quite serious news outlet.

To give you an idea of how this Poynter game was played, go back a few months to this story, as reported by Tim Graham right here at NewsBusters. The headline: “Ex-New York Times Executive Editor Rips Her Own Paper for 'Raw Opinion' Against Trump.”

The ex-Times editor was Jill Abramson, and Tim quoted a report from the Fox News media analyst Howard Kurtz. Abramson had written a new book titled  Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts, In which she launched on her successor, Dean Baquet:

Wrote Kurtz of Abramson, bold print supplied: 

“Though Baquet said publicly he didn’t want the Times to be the opposition party, his news pages were unmistakably anti-Trump,” Abramson writes, adding that she believes the same is true of the Washington Post. “Some headlines contained raw opinion, as did some of the stories that were labeled as news analysis.”

What’s more, she says, citing legendary 20th century publisher Adolph Ochs, “the more anti-Trump the Times was perceived to be, the more it was mistrusted for being biased. Ochs’s vow to cover the news without fear or favor sounded like an impossible promise in such a polarized environment.”

Abramson describes a generational split at the Times, with younger staffers, many of them in digital jobs, favoring an unrestrained assault on the presidency. “The more ‘woke’ staff thought that urgent times called for urgent measures; the dangers of Trump’s presidency obviated the old standards,” she writes.”

So there is a former Times editor flatly stating that the Times and also the Washington Post have an anti-Trump bias - and yet mysteriously the New York Times and the Washington Post somehow, someway, just don’t make it on the Poynter list of unreliable news sites  - the unreliability due to what Poynter calls “bias.”

There is, in reality, nothing new here. The very reason for the existence of conservative media, from Fox to talk radio to sites like NewsBusters and those blacklisted…sorry…listed by Poynter is precisely the long ago realization that the mainstream media is in fact  the Leftist State Media. Dare we say, yes indeed, “unreliable.”

The only real news here is that the Poynter Institute suddenly had an urge to grab headlines by shooting itself in the foot. Calling attention to its left-leaning instincts by pretending to objectivity - an objectivity that quite obviously and unsurprisingly doesn’t exist.

As anyone not deep in the left-wing media tank could have predicted, there was an uproar from conservatives at the publication of the list. Poynter quickly realized it had, as it were, stepped in it. Quickly there was an attempt to backpedal, with Poynter’s managing editor, Barbara Allen doing the peddling.  Said Ms. Allen, per Fox News:

“On Tuesday, April 30, Poynter posted a list of 515 'unreliable' news websites, built from pre-existing databases compiled by journalists, fact-checkers and researchers around the country. Our aim was to provide a useful tool for readers to gauge the legitimacy of the information they were consuming,” the statement read.

“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. We began an audit to test the accuracy and veracity of the list, and while we feel that many of the sites did have a track record of publishing unreliable information, our review 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.” 

“Therefore, we are removing this unreliable sites list until we are able to provide our audience a more consistent and rigorous set of criteria. The list was intended to be a starting place for readers and journalists to learn more about the veracity of websites that purported to offer news; it was not intended to be definitive or all encompassing.

“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. We pledge to continue to hold ourselves to the highest standards.”

The “highest standards?”  Or “the highest standards consistent with our left-wing agenda.”

Every conservative out there knows exactly what she really means.