Launched in 1994, The Hill is a newspaper all about the latest from Capitol Hill, covering news about Congress, the executive branch, and elections. The publication claims it “stands alone in delivering solid, nonpartisan reporting on the inner workings of Congress and the nexus of politics and business.” Yet The Hill has also been caught up in controversy, including that the site’s former owner directly influenced coverage of Presidents Trump and Biden. So, how reliable is The Hill and how biased is its news 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 The Hill?
The Hill scored an average Factual Grade of 63.9%, placing it in the 54th percentile of our dataset. Several factors contribute to these moderate scores. On the plus side, The Hill has an array of authors who regularly cover the same topics, such as the U.S. president, Congress, or elections, and publish high-quality articles. This results in high scores for author expertise. Likewise, articles from the site are often neutral in language or wording, which leads to higher scores. However, many articles score poorly for cited evidence because they do not link to supporting articles or because those links only point to other articles by The Hill. This suggests limited attention to providing supporting evidence from a diverse array of sources.
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How Opinionated Is The Hill?
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.
The Hill had an average Writing Tone score of 0.75, placing it in the 90th percentile in our dataset for this metric. This suggests that articles from the site tend to use highly neutral language. This can be seen in article titles such as “Feds charge 4 police officers in fatal Breonna Taylor raid” and “Is the US in a recession? It depends on who you ask.” This is a surprisingly high score considering that the site publishes many opinion articles.
What Is The Hill’s Political Bias?
The Factual classifies news sites by political bias as either Left, Moderate Left, Center, Moderate Right, or Right. This classification is derived from third-party assessments from media bias organizations such as AllSides and Media Bias/Fact Check. Based on this data, The Factual assigns The Hill a “Center” bias.
AllSides rates The Hill as “Center” based on a blind survey, independent research, and 40,134 community ratings. In a 2020 blind bias survey of 1,505 people, 41% of respondents classified The Hill as “Center,” though a sizable 32% classified the publication as “Lean Left.” According to AllSides, “the overall average response of all groups indicates The Hill's content is on the border line between Lean Left and Center.” They warn that a “Center” rating does not necessarily mean that the site is neutral; instead, it just means that it “does not predictably show perspectives favoring either end of the political spectrum.”
Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC) rates The Hill as “Least Biased,” its centrist classification. This is based on the publication’s tendency toward “balanced editorial positions and news reporting that is low-biased.” MBFC also classifies the site as “Mostly Factual,” noting that though The Hill uses high-quality sources and has no failed fact-checks, they sometimes rush to put out timely content, which then requires some stories to be revised. MBFC also highlights that the site has previously employed problematic columnists, such as John Solomon, who left The Hill after publishing conspiracy theories regarding President Biden and Ukraine.
Who Owns The Hill?
The Hill is owned by Nexstar Media Group, the country’s largest television station owner, which purchased the publication in 2021. There’s some evidence to suggest that The Hill’s former owner Jeremey Finkelstein is friends with former President Trump and has interfered with the site’s output. As CNN reported, John Solomon, a former columnist, “reported directly to Finkelstein, allowing him to bypass the outlet's normal editorial process,” while former employees noted that Finkelstein monitored coverage “to make sure it's not too anti-Trump” and interfered “in a way that an owner never should.” Though Solomon eventually left The Hill, this type of interference is concerning and atypical for an independent, nonpartisan news outlet.
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.
This article was updated on September 20, 2022 to reflect new data.