MarketWatch is a finance and business news website founded in 1997 to provide access to real-time market data. Today, it holds “the democratization of financial information” as a guiding principle. Given its close relationship to the financial world, the site is often thought of as having a slight conservative bias, but more recent reviews may show the publication to be more centrist than previously thought. This study from The Factual seeks to assess the reliability of MarketWatch as well as its potential political bias.
How Does The Factual Rate News Sources?
The Factual analyzes more than 10,000 news stories every day to help readers find the most informative, least-biased articles. Our news-rating algorithm scores each article along four metrics: (1) cited sources and quotes, (2) publication history, (3) writing tone, and (4) author expertise. These scores combine in a weighted average we call a Factual Grade, which ranges from 0–100%. (See our How It Works page to learn more about our algorithm.)
For this study, we analyzed ~1,000 articles each from 240 news sources. The average Factual Grade for the entire dataset was 62.5%. Based on these averages, we can compare the performance of news sites across the media ecosystem. The entire dataset can be explored in greater detail here.
How Factual Is MarketWatch?
MarketWatch scored an average Factual Grade of 66.4%, placing it in the 64th percentile of our dataset. These moderate scores are driven by conflicting performance across the metrics measured by The Factual’s algorithm. For example, while some articles incorporate a wide range of high-quality sources, others may link to just a few or none at all. In terms of author expertise, we see that some authors routinely cover the same topics for MarketWatch, a sign of high topical expertise. However, we also see many authors with limited history of writing for MarketWatch or articles that entirely lack an assigned author. Lastly, and as commonly seen with many sites, articles vary widely in the opinionatedness of their language, with some showing a neutral, “straight news” approach and others exhibiting strongly opinionated wording or titles. In the end, our review suggests a moderately high overall quality but also some general inconsistency in editorial approach and style.
How Opinionated Is MarketWatch?
One of the metrics The Factual uses is the Writing Tone, which measures how opinionated the writing is in an article. For this metric, the algorithm looks for signs of subjective commentary (e.g., first person pronouns and unnecessary adverbs), as well as the emotional nature of selected words, and sees how prevalent they are for a given length of text. More neutral text receives higher ratings, with “0” being the most opinionated and “1” being the most neutral.
MarketWatch had an average Writing Tone score of 0.67, placing it in the 67th percentile in our dataset for this metric. This suggests that articles from the MarketWatch are moderately opinionated on average. This means that certain articles may exhibit loaded language or headlines, such as “This idiot-proof portfolio has beaten traditional stocks and bonds over 50 years” and “Amy Schumer Selling a Sumptuous NYC Penthouse for $15M.”
What Is MarketWatch’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 MarketWatch a Center bias.
AllSides rates MarketWatch as “Center” based on an October 2020 editorial review, independent research, and 1,590 community ratings. The site was previously classified as “Lean Right,” but AllSides’ politically diverse editorial team found sufficient evidence to change the site’s rating to “Center.” According to the review, “MarketWatch didn't reveal much political bias, but when it did, there were a relatively balanced number of articles that were for or against liberal or conservative ideas, politicians or policies.” At the time of the review, just before the 2020 presidential elections, team members also documented several choices reflecting a slight “Lean-Left” or anti-Trump bias, such as an article calling Trump’s tweets “rife with self-glorification.” Interestingly, AllSides notes that the largest number of community ratings that disagree with their rating would instead classify MarketWatch as “Lean Right.”
MBFC slightly disagrees with the AllSides rating, instead classifying MarketWatch as “Right-Center” due to “economic positions that slightly favor the right.” They give the site credit for proper sourcing and high quality of information, noting that the bias rating is mostly related to the site’s overall economic philosophy. MBFC notes that MarketWatch also maintains a clean fact-check record.
Our own review corroborated many of the points mentioned by AllSides and MBFC. For example, while many articles exhibit economic or financial positions that can be understood as somewhat conservative, there were also articles that championed left-leaning causes, such as “America’s most prestigious corporate boards are still being filled by mostly white men” and “Texas abortion law will hurt people of color those with low incomes and other marginalized groups advocates say.” On balance, the site’s overall rating as Center seems warranted.
Who Owns MarketWatch?
MarketWatch is owned by Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of other financial publications such as the Wall Street Journal and Barron’s and the former publisher of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Dow Jones & Company is owned by News Corp, a media conglomerate and sister company to the Fox Corporation, both of which are owned and controlled by the family of Rupert Murdoch. Whether and how this ownership structure influences MarketWatch is unclear.
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Why Does It Matter?
News articles always have some 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 September 19, 2022 to reflect new data.