Last week, the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, a non-profit journalism and research organization, published a list of 500 unreliable new websites. But the list, which included many conservative news and think tank websites, was itself unreliable, and Poynter has since retracted it.
“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,” explained Poynter editor Barbara Allen in a statement. “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.”
How exactly the list found its way onto the Poynter website in the first place is a bit of a mystery. Poynter confirmed that its author, Barrett Golding, is a freelancer rather than an employee, but did not answer other questions about the process of greenlighting this project.
Golding’s LinkedIn account lists him as a freelance podcast producer for the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC did not respond to my questions about whether other SPLC staff had any influence or involvement over the list. Golding did not immediately respond to my request for comment, either. According to his Twitter feed, he works with the SPLC’s “Teaching Tolerance” project. He was formerly a research fellow at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute and a producer for NPR.