The Texas Tribune advertises itself as the “only member-supported, digital-first, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans … about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.” The news site sets out to deliver fact-based, high-quality journalism accessible to all in a historically conservative state, and today faces accusations of a slight liberal bias. So, how reliable is news from the Texas Tribune, and how biased is its coverage?

How Factual Is the Texas Tribune? 

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 Texas Tribune scored an average Factual Grade of 73.8%. This is well above the 61.9% average for all 245 news sources that we analyzed and places the newspaper in the top 20 publications in our dataset. 

The newspaper receives such high scores due to its high standard of journalistic practices and its experienced team of journalists. For example, stories from the Texas Tribune pay consistent attention to providing adequate sourcing for stories, meaning articles are always accompanied by links to other high-quality stories on the topic. Likewise, stories are generally written in a highly unbiased manner, meaning reporters focus on naturally conveying news, not opinion. Finally, articles indicate substantial author expertise, signaling that its authors routinely cover the same topics.

Like any news source, scores for articles from the Texas Tribune 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 Texas Tribune?

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 Texas Tribune had an average Writing Tone score of 0.82, placing it in the 98th percentile in our dataset, or the fifth-highest score in our entire dataset. This indicates that the newspaper exhibits exceptional standards for using neutral language in its reporting. This is well captured in headlines such as “Texas universities stuck over conflicting COVID-19 vaccine mandates” and “Polls campaign activity suggest Texas is a battleground.”

What Is the Texas Tribune’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 Texas Tribune a Moderate Left bias. 

AllSides rates the Texas Tribune as “Lean Left” due to independent research and 1,035 community ratings. Though AllSides acknowledges that the Texas Tribune aims to be non-partisan, they note that it tends to exhibit a slight liberal bias, including in coverage of political issues such as immigration. 

MBFC reaches a similar conclusion, rating the Texas Tribune as “Left-Center” due to “story selection and editorial positions that slightly favor the left.” In particular, they point to reporting that tends to be negative about former president Donald Trump and Texas Republicans. Likewise, MBFC cites the publication’s tendency to favor liberal policies regarding immigration as well as support the scientific consensus on climate change.

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Who Owns the Texas Tribune?

The Texas Tribune was started in 2009 by venture capitalist John Thornton, who helped raise additional funding from philanthropists and public figures to support the site’s commitment to explanatory journalism. Today, the site continues on a member-driven funding model but also emphasizes absolute clarity on where money is coming from. The Texas Tribune prominently displays information about its funding in an accessible format that details donors and corporate sponsors. 

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.