The Atlantic is an American magazine and multi-platform publisher based in Washington, D.C. Initially published in Boston during 1857 as The Atlantic Monthly, the literary and cultural magazine highlighted contemporary sensibilities of leading writers and their commentary on education, the abolition of slavery, and other major political issues of the time. Since then, the periodical has grown an internationally lauded reputation and has won more National Magazine Awards than any other monthly magazine. However, despite often being regarded as a high-quality review organ, The Atlantic has also come under fire for an unbalanced bias. So, just how reliable is The Atlantic?

How Factual Is The Atlantic? 

The Factual’s news rating algorithm analyzes more than 10,000 articles a day along four metrics: author expertise, publication history, writing tone, and cited sources and quotes. (See our How It Works page to learn more.) For this study, we analyzed 1,000 articles each from 245 major news sources.

Over a dataset of 1,000 articles, The Atlantic scored an average Factual Grade of 68.5%. This is above the average of 61.9% for all 240 news sources that we analyzed. This places The Atlantic in the 79th percentile of our dataset.

The Atlantic scores above average mainly due to thorough sourcing and experienced, repeat authors who demonstrate topical knowledge. However, highly opinionated language and titles offset these otherwise strong metrics.

Like any news source, scores for articles from The Atlantic range widely based on factors like author expertise and cited evidence. For example, some scored above 90%, while others scored far below 50%.

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How Opinionated Is The Atlantic?

The Factual measures how opinionated an article is using a sophisticated natural language processing algorithm, producing a score we call the Writing Tone. For this metric, the algorithm looks for signs of subjective commentary (e.g., first person pronouns, unnecessary adverbs), as well as the emotional nature of selected words, and sees how prevalent they are for a given length of text. Text which is less opinionated gets higher ratings, with “0” being the most opinionated and “1” being the most neutral.

The Atlantic had an average Writing Tone score of 0.27, placing it in the 10th percentile in our dataset. This compares to an average Writing Tone score of 0.56 for all 240 analyzed news sources. These scores show that articles from the magazine are highly likely to be very opinionated and use loaded language to elicit an emotional response from readers. 

What Is The Atlantic’s Political Bias? 

The Factual classifies news sites by political bias as either Left, Moderate Left, Center, Moderate Right, or Right. This classification comes from third-party assessments from media bias organizations such as AllSides and Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC). Based on this data, The Factual assigns The Atlantic a “Moderate Left” bias. 

MBFC classifies The Atlantic as having a “Left-Center” bias and “Highly Factual” reporting. MBFC notes that the magazine’s standard of reporting is based on “excellent sourcing of information” and that the publication has not failed a single fact -check in the past 5 years. However, MBFC upholds that despite the factual accuracy of the magazine’s content, its quality journalism suffers from moderately loaded wording that typically favors the left, including through headlines such as “This Is the Moment of Truth for Republicans.” This perspective is imparted by an opinionated editorial staff that takes a left-leaning position on most issues and has long endorsed Democratic candidates.

AllSides rates the magazine as “Lean Left” based on community feedback and independent research. In a survey of 23,463 users across the political spectrum, 2,178 AllSides readers agree that The Atlantic’s media bias is “Lean Left.” Though AllSides offers limited information about their rating in this instance, it appears that other votes in the survey assign the magazine a “Center” or “Left” classification in such a balance as to justify the “Lean Left” classification.

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Who Owns The Atlantic? 

The Atlantic has gone through numerous ownership shifts since its founding in 1857. Until recently, it was known primarily for launching the careers of many prominent American writers and poets. These days, it is funded through a subscription and advertising model.

In 1999, David G. Bradley became the owner of The Atlantic. Bradley owns other media outlets and journals under the umbrella of Atlantic Media. In 2005, Bradley shifted the magazine’s editorial office from Boston to Washington, D.C., replacing much of his editorial team. Bradley considers himself a centrist and has proven himself by donating to the campaigns of both Democrats and Republicans. He even made contributions to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Mitt Romney during the 2008 presidential primaries.

In 2017, the Emerson Collective purchased a majority stake from Bradley and Atlantic Media. Though Bradley still owns a minority share, Emerson Collective plans to move to full ownership. Laurene Powell Jobs — the widow of former Apple CEO Steve Jobs — owns the Emerson Collective. She is an outspoken donor to Democratic Party politicians, including Kamala Harris and Joe Biden.

Why Does It Matter? 

News articles tend to have bias because all authors have some frame of reference within which they describe a story. Political bias ratings are helpful in understanding this framing. However, it can be more beneficial to know how factual an article is based on quantifiable metrics that can be seen across the media ecosystem, such as cited evidence, author expertise, and writing tone. This is what The Factual ascertains. 

Reading several, highly rated articles from across the political spectrum helps counter the bias of any news source or story. To have the day’s most factual news stories delivered to your inbox every morning, subscribe to our daily newsletter.

Published by Vinay Umapathy

Vinay is a writer, director, and producer based in Brooklyn, NY. He currently works with teams as a digital media specialist and copyeditor, in addition to making short films with his friends.