HuffPost, formerly known as the Huffington Post, is an online news aggregator and blog that offers coverage on a range of topics from politics and business to technology, popular media, and culture. Promising a “people-first approach,” the site gained prominence collecting articles from independent bloggers working in political journalism. Due to the website’s inherently populistic nature and its series of recent acquisitions by media conglomerates such as AOL, Verizon, and Buzzfeed, the integrity and accountability of HuffPost come into question. So just how reliable is HuffPost?

How Factual Is HuffPost? 

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. (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, HuffPost scored an average Factual Grade of 54.3%. This is below the average of 61.9% for all 245 news sources that we analyzed. This places the site in the 18th percentile of our dataset. 

A number of practices contribute to these low scores. HuffPost relies on a variety of authors, including from one-time contributors and unedited articles by celebrity or political figures. This leads to lower author expertise scores. (The site formerly allowed unpaid contributors to publish on the site, but this practice ended in 2018.) Articles commonly lack sufficient evidence, frequently including minimal external sources to support their claims. Finally, the focus on entertainment news and at times “click-bait” headlines means articles often have sensationalized language or titles, such as “Texas Embalmer Shares Nightmare COVID Experiences: ‘Unlike Anything I’ve Seen Before’.”

Like any news source, scores for articles from HuffPost varied widely based on factors like author expertise and cited evidence. For example, some scored as high as 80%, while others scored below 50%.

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How Opinionated Is HuffPost?

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.

HuffPost had an average Writing Tone score of 0.57, placing it in the 40th percentile in our dataset. This suggests that articles from HuffPost are often moderately to highly opinionated, reiterating that biased language and headlines are common.

What Is HuffPost’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 HuffPost a “Left” bias. 

MBFC assigns HuffPost a “Left” bias due to its story selection favoring left-wing positions. This rating is due to articles that frequently implement emotionally loaded language, as can be seen in such headlines as “Trump Calls Female Reporter 'So Obnoxious,' Tells Her To Be Quiet,” and tend to favor left-leaning positions and contributors. In addition, the articles are often sparse in sourcing and have failed fact-checks, despite the included sourcing being generally credible. This earns HuffPost a Mixed score for factual reporting.

AllSides determined that HuffPost has a “Left” bias. This is based on HuffPost’s own attested political leanings, several surveys, a Pew study, and 58,727 community votes. HuffPost acknowledges that it is a liberal news source. In a survey, 59% of the website’s readership classified themselves as liberal and only 17% as conservative. 

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Who Owns HuffPost?

Founded in May 2005 by Arianna Huffington, Andrew Breitbart (who went on to found Breitbart News), Kenneth Lerer, and Jonah Peretti, HuffPost has undergone a series of ownership changes since its launch. In 2011, AOL bought the company, with Arianna Huffington assigned as editor-in-chief. In June 2015, Verizon Media acquired AOL in a deal amounting to $4.4 billion. This was followed by Arianna Huffington’s resignation the following year and succession by Lydia Polgreen. 

Buzzfeed Inc. acquired HuffPost from Verizon Media at the end of 2020, placing co-founder Jonah Peretti in charge of both news sites. This merger, according Peretti, will allow for greater traffic to both websites, claiming he “believes in the future of HuffPost and the potential it has to continue to define the media landscape for years to come.” Viral content and popular appeal has been a high priority of Buzzfeed’s in the past, and time will tell whether HuffPost takes a similar turn in the years to come by making compromises for the sake of more shareable content.

Both Buzzfeed and HuffPost have suffered corporate restructuring within the past year due to the merger, which has been magnified by the economic concerns of the pandemic. Following these changes, former The Root editor Danielle Belton has taken on the role of editor-in-chief, a small step toward bringing the HuffPost team the diversity it’s been criticized for lacking since its beginning.

Why Does It Matter?

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.

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Published by Gal Barak

Gal is a writer and researcher. He graduated from the University of Denver with a B.A. in Philosophy and a minor in English. Before the Factual, Gal has interned as a journalist and taken on various roles at different non-profits.