Raw Story began in 2004 as an alternative news source covering the stories “ignored” by other outlets. Today, it is both widely shared and widely ridiculed. For example, a 2018 study by the Oxford Internet Institute labeled the site as one of the “Top 30 Junk News Sources.” Yet, a Harvard study found that it was the 9th most shared source on Twitter among supporters of Hillary Clinton in the run-up to the 2016 election. So as a site with huge reach, but also huge questions about its content, is Raw Story a reliable news source?

How Factual Is Raw Story?

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, Raw Story scored an average Factual Grade of 56.5%. This is below the 61.9% average for all 245 news sources that we analyzed. This places Raw Story in the 20th percentile of our dataset. 

These low scores are driven by Raw Story’s tendency to use inflammatory, emotionally laden language, typical of its click-bait format. At any given time, the homepage of the site showcases numerous articles with problematic titles, such as “Chaos reigns: A Cold War deja vu crisis and a press corps too dumb to understand it” or “Ohio Republicans throw temper tantrum as attempts to cheat with gerrymandering shot down.” Articles also generally lack diverse or extensive evidence, meaning they frequently only link to a handful of sources or link only to other Raw Story articles.

Like any news source, scores for articles from Raw Story varied widely based on factors like author expertise and cited evidence. For example, some scored above 70%, while others scored below 50%.

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How Opinionated Is Raw Story?

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.

Raw Story had an average Writing Tone score of 0.45, placing it in the 28th percentile in our dataset. This suggests that articles from the site are often highly opinionated in their writing tone. For reference, the average Writing Tone score for all 245 sources that we analyzed was 0.56.

What Is Raw Story’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 Raw Story a “Left” bias. 

MBFC classifies Raw Story as “Left,” highlighting the site’s tendency to publish articles favoring liberal causes and its left-leaning story selection. Other issues include a mixed record for factual reporting due to “​​half-true, false, and unproven claims, as well as the promotion of mild pseudoscience misinformation.”

AllSides has yet to conduct a full analysis of Raw Story’s political bias but does assign the site a “Left” bias rating. This is supported by 1,965 ratings from the AllSides community. This rating is likely uncontroversial because Raw Story labels itself as a progressive news source.

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Who Owns Raw Story?

John K. Byrne, an American publisher and writer, launched Raw Story in 2004 as a liberal version of the Drudge Report. In the early years of its operation, Byrne used the publication to expose anti-gay politicians who were themselves closeted gays. Byrne served as the chief editor until 2010, but remains the CEO. Today, Byrne also owns AlterNet, a similarly styled progressive online news aggregator. 

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.