How Biased Are Your News Sources?

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:

Overall, we rate The Economist Least Biased based on balanced reporting and High for factual reporting due to a clean fact check record.

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.

55 thoughts on “How Biased Are Your News Sources?

  1. Interesting discussion Jim. I have never read The Economist, but I appreciate their efforts to be balanced and objective. My primary news sources remain local with the Columbus Dispatch newspaper and local news broadcast at 12:00 and 5:30. Both seem to be highly objective and unbiased.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Jim, The Economist was founded in 1842 and has a long and illustrious tradition and reputation. Contrary to its name it is an incredibly comprehensive and broad based weekly review of anything and everything that is going on in global political, social and economic affairs. It’s editorial perspective has always been open, ‘liberal’ (not in the political but in the pluralistic sense) and as you note emphasized free markets. Until the last decade or so, it was therefore considered ‘conservative’ and was followed and read by many conservatives. As the definition of conservatism – or rather Republican and Tory -changed in the US and UK to mean nativist, xenophobic, anti-immigration and nationalist, the perception of the Economist changed, but not it’s core principles.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. thanks, Jonathan, for your insights. I do have to admit when I first heard the title years ago, I thought is was simply another financial news publication. I have come across some great articles in it over the years, but I never thought to make it part of my regular reading. When I heard you and Steve endorse it, I knew it was time. At this point, I’ve downloaded the app and have enjoyed reading it on my phone.

        Like

  2. I have never read The Economist, but I’m going to take a look now. My politics are pretty moderate, and it does get harder and harder to find unbiased sources as I like listening to more than one point of view. I like NPR as it isn’t so slanted like many of the major networks.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It seems like “The Economist” has been flying under the radar of your readers, as I have not read it before either. However, this information you provide compels me to give it a look. I think accurate and unbiased reporting is something we have too little of. How did we fall so in love with news sources that simply tell us what we want to hear? Great post, Jim, and thanks for sharing the link!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. wow, so interesting, and not surprising to me at all, other than i wasn’t very familiar with the economist, good to know. i fall clearly on the left side of politics, but i do go to a variety of sources, as a regular practice.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I think it’s more than just loaded language and skewed facts that makes a news outlet biased. It’s also the selection of the stories they cover. They can be mostly factual and accurate, and yet mainly cover stories that interest liberals or conservatives. I think that’s quite a bit what both MSNBC and FOX do.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. That’s what I like to see in a news story. I want both sides. “The Week” magazine is good at that. If I want to see both sides on TV, I watch FOX, and then balance that with MSNBC or CNN.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Damn, I didn’t realize that. The funny thing is, my father-in-law was very conservative. When we asked him what he wanted for Father’s Day, one year, he asked for a subscription to The Week, which he had read in a doctor’s office. We bought him a subscription and kept it renewed until he died about five years later. I would read it also, after he finished with it. He always like it, so I guess he never suspected its left leanings.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. An interesting piece, Jim. I’ve seen a graphic from the same site which compares many publications on their bias, and it is pretty accurate. I tried your link and searched for The Times – moderately right – and the Daily Mail – questionable source. Those both match my perception, but I wonder why Fox News didn’t end up in the extreme right/questionable categories!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t follow either network too closely, but I consider FoxNews and MSNBC to be about the same, and it seems like they balance each other out in terms of where they fall on the scale. Sounds like I should avoid the Daily Mail!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The Daily Mail has long been known as a very right wing paper, pro-Brexit and prone to making up stories for sensational headlines. And it has a long track record: it supported Hitler in an editorial pre-WW2. Not recommended!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. They have close links with the Conservatives and the establishment, and most people either don’t know or have ignored their history. It isn’t known here as the Daily Fail for nothing…

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Jim,

    The problem is that some biased sources report factual incidents that are not reported by the more trusted sources for one reason or another. Snopes is a good example of bias by cherry picking what is reported as opposed to biasing what is reported.

    My point is that some (not all) biased sources should be scanned if not read entirely. Then an interesting item should be verified before believing it or sending it on.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for the site to evaluate news sources. Many today seem to have given up on being able to determine what’s actually true or false. That means the liars win.

    I wonder about the determination of bias being left or right. That seems to depend on the bias on the evaluator and the definition of center which seems to have been skewed to the right in recent years. If writing is factually accurate in terms of information provided and omitted left/right/center may not matter. A very helpful and interesting post!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. some people have pointed out that some news media may choose just to report stories that are preferred by one side or the other, and may be factual in their reporting of such stories…

        Like

  9. Thank you for the link, Jim…I like to keep in touch with UK news and have been doing my own research this link will help I don’t think we will ever find a publication which is totally unbiased given everyone has a personal opinion. I just want to make sure my subscription gives me the best option that I can balance with a couple of others 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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