The bewildering number of news organizations has inspired entrepreneurs to create ways to rank them. The most prominent of them is NewsGuard. It ranks media organizations based on their trustworthiness and then provides these rankings to large corporate advertisers. NewsGuard’s co-CEOs are Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz. Before starting NewsGuard, Brill had created CourtTV, and Crovitz was the publisher of The Wall Street Journal. I interviewed them in March.
I have two specific concerns with NewsGuard. First, it has taken money from the Pentagon. How could NewsGuard be objective in evaluating news media coverage of the Defense Department if the Defense Department funds it? Second, NewsGuard wrongly labeled the idea that Covid-19 escaped from a Chinese lab as a “conspiracy theory.” And given that NewsGuard spread misinformation about covid’s origins, what right does it have to criticize others for spreading misinformation?
To NewsGuard’s credit, it publicly acknowledges that it took money from the Pentagon and got covid origins wrong. On its website, NewsGuard writes, “NewsGuard either mischaracterized the sites’ claims about the lab leak theory, referred to the lab leak as a ‘conspiracy theory,’ or wrongly grouped together unproven claims about the lab leak with the separate, false claim that the COVID-19 virus was man-made without explaining that one claim was unsubstantiated, and the other was false. NewsGuard apologizes for these errors.”
But NewsGuard still claims on its website as “THE TRUTH,” that “Scientific evidence points to the virus originating in bats. A study published in the journal Nature in February 2020 found the new virus’s genome is “96 percent identical” to a bat coronavirus. A March 2020 study published in the journal Nature Medicine concluded that the virus “is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.”
In fact, as Public and others have shown, the scientific evidence does not point to the virus originating in bats. In fact, in their emails and internal messages, the authors of the March 2020 Nature Medicine paper expressed serious doubts that pangolins were the intermediary host from bats to humans. As late as April 2020, the authors of “Proximal Origin” expressed doubt about the bat theory of covid. Indeed, it now appears that Anthony Fauci oversaw an effort to spread disinformation about covid’s origins, including by instigating the “Proximal Origin” paper.
Conflicts Of Interest
As for NewsGuard’s Pentagon funding, I felt Brill and Crovitz were slippery about what is obviously a conflict of interest.