CBS News is best known for its news broadcasting and high-quality reporting in online digital media. It has gained immense popularity across the United States as the news branch of CBS television and radio network. CBS Corporation combines over 90 years in the media, but its classification as “mainstream” means the site still receives criticism. So, how factual and biased in CBS News?

Note: The Factual’s analysis is specific to online news stories, not TV or other media coverage.

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 CBS News?

CBS News scored an average Factual Grade of 61.4%, placing it in the 36th percentile of our dataset. A range of practices both raise and lower the site’s scores. For example, the site’s tendency to use a neutral writing tone helps leads to higher scores. However, CBS articles generally fall short in terms of providing adequate, high-quality sourcing of information. For example, many CBS News articles link only to other CBS News content rather than external sources.

Like any news source, scores for articles from CBS News varied widely. For example, some scored above 80%, while others scored below 50%.

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How Opinionated Is CBS News?

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.

CBS News had an average Writing Tone score of 0.72, placing it in the 80th percentile in our dataset. This suggests that articles from the site have a high tendency to be neutral in tone and avoid using emotionally loaded language and headlines. This can be seen in headlines such as “Biden expected to visit Pittsburgh for Labor Day” and “Italy investigates U.S. servicewoman in crash that killed 15-year-old boy.”

What Is CBS News’ Political Bias?  

The Factual classifies media organizations 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. Based on this data, The Factual assigns CBS News a Moderate Left bias. 

AllSides rates CBS News as having “Lean-Left” media bias based on community feedback, blind bias surveys, and third-party analysis and independent research. In the latest blind bias survey, in April/May 2021, AllSides found that in 1,053 users across the political spectrum, most people agreed that the newspaper had a “Lean Left” bias. Yet, a survey in 2017 found there to be a majority of people that disagreed with the bias rating. Among those who disagreed, users viewed the site as presenting a “Center” bias, and the average media bias remains between “Center” and “Lean Left”. AllSides maintains medium confidence in this rating, as more research needs to be done.

Similarly, Media Bias/Fact Checker (MBFC) rates CBS News as “Left-Center” based on story selections that moderately favor the left or are more critical of the right. However, CBS News receives a high factual reporting rating due to covering stories from both sides of the political spectrum and using proper sourcing. Likewise, the site has zero failed fact-checks within the last five years. 

Who Owns CBS News?

The major owners of CBS News are parent companies ViacomCBS and National Amusements. ViacomCBS is now the world's biggest media conglomerate, dominating the entertainment and news sectors alike. There is no clear evidence that this ownership structure has an impact on the news outlet’s media bias. The company was owned for decades by late media mogul Sumner Redstone, a longtime supporter of the Democratic Party, until his passing in 2020, but he also supported Republican presidents at times in his life. Today, his daughter, Shari, chairs ViacomCBS and also serves as president of National Amusements.

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Why Does It Matter?

News articles are bound to have a 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, from cited evidence to author expertise, to the 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 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.