Last week I wrote about our wonderful alumni who participated in a series of panel sessions with our freshmen students. During one of the sessions, one of the panelists recommended that students keep up with the news as best they can, and then recommended The Economist as a good choice, which another panelist then seconded.
I have read articles here and there from The Economist over the years, but I am not a regular reader. But when I heard such high praise for it from two people whom I respect, I thought it might be time to reconsider.
One of the first things I decided to look into was whether The Economist is considered a biased source of the news. I came across a site that looks quite useful: Media Bias/FactCheck. Here is a blurb about MBFC from its web site:
Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC), founded in 2015, is an independent online media outlet. MBFC is dedicated to educating the public on media bias and deceptive news practices. MBFC’s aim is to inspire action and a rejection of overtly biased media. We want to return to an era of straight forward news reporting. MBFC follows a strict methodology for determining the biases of sources. Dave Van Zandt is the primary editor for sources. He is assisted by a collective of volunteers who assist in research for many sources listed on these pages. MBFC also provides occasional fact checks, original articles on media bias, and breaking/important news stories, especially as it relates to USA politics. Funding for Media Bias Fact Check comes from donations and third-party advertising. We use third-party advertising to prevent influence and bias as we do not select the ads you see displayed. Ads are generated based on your search history, cookies, and the content of the current web page you are viewing. This sometimes leads to politically biased ads as well as the promotion of pseudoscience products that we do not endorse. We are the most comprehensive media bias resource on the internet. There are currently 3200+ media sources listed in our database and growing every day.
The image above is an example of how it summarizes the results of its analysis of The Economist. In addition to the nice summary graphic, here is what it had to say about The Economist:
Here is an additional narrative that explains their conclusion:
In review, The Economist takes an editorial stance of classical and economic liberalism that supports free trade, globalization, open immigration, and social liberalism. There is minimal use of loaded language in both headlines and articles such as this: America’s new attitude towards China is changing the countries’ relationship. In fact, most articles are well written with very low emotional bias. Economically, The Economist leans right, but they also support such initiatives as a carbon tax and environmental protectionism, which are not right wing positions. Editorially, The Economist endorses both Republicans and Democrats in the United States. For example, the have endorsed Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2016, while endorsing Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush in earlier elections. In the UK they most recently endorsed the Liberal Democrats, which hold left leaning libertarian positions. One criticism of The Economist is that a majority of their articles are penned anonymously, which they explain is to maintain a continuity of writing. They do however, provide a media directory where you can view who is involved in writing and editing.
A 2014 Pew Research Survey found that 59% of the Economist’s audience is consistently or mostly liberal, 24% Mixed and 18% consistently or mostly conservative. This indicates that the Economist is preferred by a more liberal audience.
A factual search reveals that The Economist has never failed a fact check.
Overall, we rate The Economist Least Biased based on balanced reporting and High for factual reporting due to a clean fact check record. (7/10/2016) Updated (D. Van Zandt 10/07/2019)
So not bad at all; I think I need to start reading The Economist.
And by the way, for point of reference, here are MBFC’s graphic summaries of The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times:
Wall Street Journal: no surprise
New York Times: no surprise here either
And then two news sources that are known for their biases:
Fox News: this is what I would have expected
MSNBC: and the same here.
When you look at the graphics for the four of these, it makes The Economist look even more impressive.
So what about your news sources? How do they measure up in terms of bias and fact-checking?
Here is the link.