The Intercept is a news organization that focuses on “holding the powerful accountable through fearless, adversarial journalism.” The organization has a reputation as a refuge for world-class, independent journalists but also has a checkered past. Several of its co-founding editors have left due to editorial disagreements, and one former author was fired for deceptive journalistic practices. So, how reliable is The Intercept and how biased is its reporting?

How Factual Is The Intercept? 

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. These metrics combine to produce a single percentage score — what we call a Factual Grade — which indicates the overall quality of an article. (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 Intercept scored an average Factual Grade of 75.2%. This is well above the 61.9% average for all 245 news sources that we analyzed and is the 11th-highest average in our dataset. 

The Intercept’s high scores are driven by several factors, including highly experienced authors and high sourcing standards. For example, The Intercept boasts a deep bench of experienced journalists with strong histories of investigating specific topics. This means that authors regularly write in the same topic area and bring relevant expertise to each story. Likewise, the site exhibits particularly high attention to adequate sourcing of information, so articles tend to incorporate numerous links to other high-quality sources or direct quotations relevant to the subject material. 

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

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How Opinionated Is The Intercept?

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 Intercept had an average Writing Tone score of 0.66, placing it in the 62nd percentile in our dataset. This suggests that articles from The Intercept are somewhat opinionated on average. One can find examples of highly opinionated pieces, such as “I Tried to Make Claims About Election Fraud So Preposterous Trump Fans Wouldn’t Believe Me. It Was Impossible.,” and highly neutral pieces, such as “Joe Biden Is Filling Top Pentagon Positions with Defense Contractors.”

What Is The Intercept’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 Intercept a Left bias. 

AllSides classifies The Intercept as having a “Left” bias based on independent research and 8,008 community ratings, though they have not yet completed a full review of the publication. In the absence of a thorough review, AllSides highlights the site’s separation from co-founding editor Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald criticized editorial practices that led to “censorship” of an article he wanted to publish that was critical of then-candidate Joe Biden. The Intercept’s editor-in-chief responded by rebuking Greenwald’s claims and pointing to numerous other articles critical of Biden. AllSides also highlights The Intercept’s declared editorial approach that “does not mean mandating ‘balance’ when one perspective on a subject — such as the science of climate change, or the justification for a war crime — is clearly without merit.”

MBFC similarly classifies The Intercept as “Left,” pointing to “story selection that routinely favors the left.” They also rate the site as “mostly factual” due to previously fabricated work and “censorship of writers.” While MBFC also mentions the Greenwald incident, they generally highlight the site’s tendency toward opinionated writing that eschews standard left-right politics and elevates progressive left perspectives. They give the site credit for using highly credible sources but also acknowledge that many stories exhibit opinionated language.  

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Who Owns The Intercept?

The Intercept is a non-profit organization originally founded by a team of editors with financial backing from eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. Today, the organization reports running through “the generosity of its members ... and institutional contributors.” Despite efforts to generate more support from individuals, the Columbia Journalism Review reported in 2019 that the organization was still largely supported by Omidyar’s contributions.

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.

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.