Some of the simplest questions about the news can be hard to answer. Does CNN produce reliable news? Can Fox News be trusted? How biased is the New York Times?

Ideally, we wouldn’t need to ask these questions. However, a highly polarized political environment and an incessant drive for ad revenue have raised questions about bias and journalistic quality in the last decade. 

Asking for completely unbiased news is a fool’s errand — bias is firmly a part of our world. The best we can do is to know and understand bias, read widely, and prioritize sources that attempt to provide highly factual, objective news. Using The Factual’s news rating algorithm, it’s possible to explore which news sites are closest to achieving that standard.

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Finding Reliable News: The Factual’s Media Bias Ecosystem

To identify which news sources consistently produce the very best news articles, The Factual used its news rating algorithm to compare the publication output of 245 major news sources. The Factual scores individual articles based on four universal metrics — writing tone, cited evidence, author expertise, and publication history. When combined, these four metrics produce a score from 0 to 100 that we call a Factual Grade. Essentially, an article that is well researched, minimally opinionated, written by a topical expert, and from a reputable source will score highly.

Next, we analyzed 1,000 articles for each news source. These samples are enough to create a reliable estimation of each site’s typical news output. When mapped out spatially, this data produces an interactive picture of the entire English-language news ecosystem.

News sources closer to the top of the graph score higher in terms of their average Factual Grade. For example, those sites were more likely to use extensive evidence, be written in a neutral tone, and come from authors with topical expertise.

Part of our study also involved mapping out how each source scored in terms of our metric Writing Tone. This is a measure of how opinionated or neutral the language is. In this case, news sources with scores closer to 1 (the right side of the graph) were more likely to use unbiased, neutral language in their reporting. Conversely, articles closer to 0 (the left side of the graph) were more likely to be opinionated.

The combination provides a glimpse of the media ecosystem and a hint at which news sites actually produce the most factual, unbiased news. Hovering your mouse over the chart can reveal some interesting revelations. For example, it shows us that Reuters produces the news stories with the most unbiased language. Similarly, science-focused publications excel at producing the most factual, well-researched news.

For a Deeper Dive

To make the most of the data, we are also investigating major news sites individually. This involves looking at how major sites scored and why they scored that way, including additional context about each publication and potential past controversies. Below is an early (and ever-expanding) list of investigations of individual news sites:

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Last updated on January 10, 2022 to reflect new data.

Published by Phillip Meylan

Phillip is a writer, researcher, and editor. At The Factual, he leads research efforts that utilize the company's ever growing data on the media ecosystem. He is also a contributor to FP Analytics, Foreign Policy's research and advisory division, and an adjunct fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.