Forbes is most famous for being one of the pre-eminent business-focused publications in the U.S. Its news coverage stretches beyond the business world to politics, science, and culture. However, it has been subject to criticism, both for highly variable quality and changes to its ownership. This leads to two important questions: how factual is Forbes and how biased is it?

How Factual Is Forbes?

The Factual analyzed 785,000 news articles from 32 major news sources between January 1, 2020 and May 18, 2021. To be included, a news source must have published at least 5,000 articles over the time period, or at least 10 articles per day.

Forbes scored an average Factual Grade of 49.3% across 19,673 articles. This is well below the 62.0% average for all articles in the dataset. In fact, this is the lowest score out of the 32 sites measured for this study. 

Forbes’ low scores do not have a single cause and instead seem to be the result of several factors; hundreds of guest authors, intermittent sourcing for some articles, overuse of internal links, and opinionated writing all play a role. Furthermore, mixed in with proper news articles are articles that are effectively advertisements for products, which score very poorly.

Article scores, as rated by The Factual’s algorithm, show how author expertise, writing tone, and provided evidence vary widely, even within a single source. For instance, some articles from Forbes scored 80% or more, while many others scored below 50%

Articles that are informative, relatively objective, and written by a topical expert receive high scores. A low grade means many of these factors were not present or could not be verified. Low-scoring articles may still have merit, but readers should know to treat them with greater scrutiny. To learn more, visit our How It Works page.

How Biased Is Forbes?

Together, assessments from media bias organizations indicate that Forbes has a “Moderate Right” bias.

Media Bias/Fact Check, for example, categorizes Forbes as “Right Center” due to “story selection that favors the right and the political affiliation of its ownership” and scores it as “Mostly Factual” for reporting, due to some “misleading or false stories related to climate science.” This classification is supported by community feedback, where a majority (35%) of 435 respondents rated Forbes as “Right Center.”

AllSides, another media bias organization, has not completed an in-depth editorial review of Forbes, which they typically provide for major news outlets. However, AllSides community ratings give Forbes a “Center” rating based on 22,159 votes.

Forbes has intermittently published articles that lend credence to its classification as somewhat conservative. For example, they published an article by right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza on 2010. The articles was “a gross piece of innuendo—a fact-twisting, error-laden piece of paranoia,” according to the Columbia Journalism Review. Several years later they published an article in which editor-in-chief Steve Forbes likened then-president Obama to Lenin. 

This bias may have lessened over the last decade but remains present. During the Trump era, Media Bias/Fact Check noted the site “presents a reasonable balance through their contributors” but publishes stories “more in favor of his policies than against.” Moreover, Steve Forbes remains the editor-in-chief and continues to publish conservative articles through the platform, with titles like “How Biden’s Corporate Tax Hike Will Hurt The Middle Class.”

Who Owns Forbes?

The Hong Kong-based company Integrated Whale Media Investments purchased Forbes in 2014. Critics suspect this ownership is influencing the site’s coverage in favor of China. Since the acquisition, Forbes has fired contributors known to be hawkish on China, and editors have taken issue with “problematic” language toward China. While such bias is only relevant to some stories, it has noticeable impacts. For example, this story covering the 2018 arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou elevates the perceived economic risks of the move rather than the reasons for the arrest.

How to Mitigate Bias

Our analysis shows that Forbes’ standards and ownership raise some questions about its reliability as a news source. However, all news articles have some bias because all authors have some frame of reference within which they describe a story. Knowing and accounting for such bias is a key element of media literacy.  It is also useful to know how factual an article is based on the cited evidence and whether the tone of writing is objective or opinionated. This is what The Factual Grade helps measure. Reading several highly rated articles across the political spectrum, including from highly objective sources, helps counter the bias of any news source or story.

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Published by Phillip Meylan

Phillip is a writer, researcher, and editor. He is a contributor to FP Analytics, Foreign Policy's research and advisory division, and an adjuct fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. During Covid-19, he has spent time enjoying the great outdoors, reading, and watching soccer.