The LA Times is a leading voice for news across the LA Metropolitan Area with many notable achievements, including 47 Pulitzer Prize awards, 1.3 million daily readers, and 27 million monthly website visits, which also gives it a national profile. At times, however, the newspaper receives criticism for having a liberal bias. This leads The Factual to ask two questions: how credible is the LA Times, and how biased is its coverage? 

What Is The Factual and How Does It Score Articles?
The Factual identifies the most informative and least opinionated articles from thousands of sources across the political spectrum. It does this by using a consistent and transparent rating algorithm to evaluate articles based on their sources, writing tone, author expertise, and publishing site, ultimately producing a grade between 0 and 100 for each article. The Factual uses this data to explore trends across the media ecosystem as well as to inform our daily newsletter. To learn more about how we score articles, visit our How It Works page.

How Factual Is the LA Times? 

Over a dataset of 1,000 articles, the LA Times scored an average Factual Grade of 68.4%. This is above the average of 61.9% for all 240 news sources that we analyzed. This places the newspaper in the 79th percentile of our dataset.

The LA Times performs positively across most of our metrics. Lower-scoring articles from the LA Times appear to be due to no assigned author (meaning a low score for author expertise) or due to a lack of hyperlinks (meaning a low score for cited evidence).

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As part of each Factual Grade, 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 LA Times had an average Writing Tone score of 0.65, placing it in the 61st percentile in our dataset. This suggests that articles from the newspaper tend to be written in a more neutral tone, though others still exhibit opinionated language.

How Biased Is the LA Times? 

Together, studies from media organizations suggest the LA Times has a Moderate Left bias.

AllSides assigns the LA Times a “Lean Left” media bias, based on community feedback and independent research. In a survey of 8,591 users across the political spectrum, AllSides found most people agreed that the newspaper had a “Lean Left” bias. Yet, a survey in 2016 found there to be a majority of people that disagreed with the bias rating. Among those who disagreed, users viewed the LA Times as presenting a “Center” bias, and the average media bias remains between “Center” and “Lean Left.” AllSides maintains low confidence in this rating, as more research needs to be done.

Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC), another media bias organization, concluded the LA Times has a “slight-to-moderate liberal” or “Left-Center” bias. This is in part due to reporting that utilizes “loaded” words. This reflects an attempt to influence readers regarding a certain cause through the use of emotional appeal or stereotypes. However, MBFC recognizes the paper as a continued source of trustworthy information with a “high credibility” due to factual reporting. This includes a clean fact-check record to date.

MBFC notes implicit in headlines such as, “Outgoing White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly Defends Rocky Tenure” and “Engaging with the world doesn’t make Americans ‘suckers’.” Within the latter article, the Editorial Board makes loaded statements such as “Congress needs to focus not only on how amateurishly Trump executes foreign policy but the clear shortcomings of the policy itself.” These examples—one politics article and one opinion piece—show how news stories from the LA Times at times may exhibit a liberal bias.  

Who Owns the LA Times? 

Biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong—a surgeon, scientist, and entrepreneur—bought the LA Times in 2018. Soon-Shiong’s interests in non-partisan news led to his active ownership in several newspapers. These include the San Diego Tribune and several community papers. In 2014 and 2016, Forbes declared Soon-Shiong the richest doctor in history. He was also the highest-paid CEO in 2016, with a package worth $148 million. Today, Soon-Shiong is the wealthiest man in Los Angeles, with a net worth of $7.9 billion.

This shift in ownership has resulted in some criticism over Soon-Shiong’s vision to transform the daily newspaper into a multimedia platform for independent, innovative, and “engaging journalistic skills.” This includes a shift to shortened information formats aimed at younger generations and playing into hyperpartisan discourse. However, he maintains that the goal is to detach unbiased news, factual reporting, and non-partisan media from fake news.

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How to Mitigate Biases

News articles are bound 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.

Article updated on December 12, 2021 to reflect new data.

Published by Michelle Lee

Michelle is a growth and marketing professional at The Factual. She has a B.S. degree in psychology and a minor in public health from San Jose State University. Before joining The Factual, she assisted as a psychology researcher, behavioral health coordinator, and digital marketing freelancer.