Introducing The Messenger Scale

Like the 'Richter Scale' for earthquakes — but for news.

Introducing The Messenger Scale, a new system designed to cut through the noise and help you understand what really matters in the news.

It’s designed to be like the “Richter scale” for measuring earthquakes, but in this case we are assigning a simple 1-10 number based on input from our panel of more than 80 "news seismologists" from the worlds of politics, policy, law, history, academia and media. Our panel spans the entire political spectrum in order to provide readers with a balanced response to major news events.

We're asking about topics that are already defining the U.S. news landscape, including Donald Trump’s legal saga, the 2024 White House campaign and important debates surrounding policy and politics.

Scale with numbers one through ten with the dial at the number 5

How does it work? When a news event happens, we’re hitting up our group with a simple question: On a scale of 1-10, how much do you think this event matters?

We purposefully kept the question vague and urged everyone to interpret it based on areas of expertise, understanding of the news cycle and where this particular event fits into the wider arc of history. 

The higher the number on The Messenger Scale, the more our panel thinks the event matters. The lower the number, the less they think the event matters.

We are averaging the responses to generate a number score down to the tenth decimal. We are keeping individual number ratings anonymous to encourage complete honesty, though who's participating in The Messenger Scale will be public.

The esteemed ranks of 'news seismologists' include: Allan Lichtman, Allison Gill, Andrew McCarthy, Andrew Weissmann, Anthony Coley, Arun Chaudhary, Barbara Perry, Becky Bond, Brendan Buck, Carah Ong Whaley, Carol Browner, Carolyn Maloney, Charlie Cook, Chris Frates, Chris Shays, Dan Schnur, David S. Bernstein, David Doniger, David Cay Johnston, David Litt, David McIntosh, David Pepper, David Tamasi, David Weinstein, Edwin Chen, Eric Wilson, Fred Upton, Gilda Daniels, Gordon Sondland, Gwenda Blair, Isaac Saul, Javed Ali, Jay Hakes, Jed Shugerman, Jeffrey Engel, Jeff Roe, Jeff Smith, Jenna Lowenstein, Jennifer Mercieca, Jesse Ferguson, Jim Messina, Joe Trippi, John Q. Barrett, John Dean, John Fleming, Julie Myers Wood, Kalee Kreider, Keith Appell, Ken Spain, Laura Smith, Lilliana Mason, Mark Zaid, Mary Bono, Matthew Rhodes-Purdy, Michael Czin, Michael Podhorzer, Michael Toner, Michael Vachon, Mindy Finn, Noah Bookbinder, Patricia Taft, Patrick Cotter, Patti Solis Doyle, Paul Rosenzweig, Philip Allen Lacovara, PJ Crowley, Randall Samborn, Reed Galen, Richard Tofel, Rick Boucher, Rick Wilson, Robert Luskin, Rodell Mollineau, Sam Martin, Sam Nunberg, Sarah Longwell, Sean Spicer, Shannon O’Brien, Stephen Moore, Steven Groves, Susan Liebell, Ty Cobb, and William Jeffress.

When a participant responds to a specific survey topic their name will be bolded in the list that accompanies the article.

Early results

We've been giving The Messenger Scale a test on a bunch of different recent news events. Here are the latest results:

The release of the Durham report: 4.4

Jury rules Trump liable for sexual abuse, awards Jean Carroll $5 million: 6.1

Comer releases Biden family probe update without showing link to president: 3.8

Trump says he'd pardon a 'large portion of Jan. 6 rioters: 6.5

The Proud Boys verdict: 5.4

Trump’s indictment in New York: 7.2

January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol: 9.8

The release of the Mueller report: 6.3

Expect readings and updates to the scores as the news develops.

When we publish a score you'll see context around what the actual event was, quotes from our panel on why they voted the way they did and a look ahead at what's next on the particular story we're featuring.

So who all is on board? You can see the full list of names above, which include: Six former members of Congress; former top aides, attorneys, advisors and spokesmen for presidents Biden, Trump, Obama, Bush, Clinton, H.W. Bush, Reagan, Carter, and Nixon; former federal prosecutors; presidential biographers; political advisors and aspirants; policymakers, data and policy wonks, digital, PR and communication tacticians, academics, lawyers, historians, podcasters, comedians, writers, publishers and media personalities.

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