The Washington Post enjoys a reputation for being one of the nation’s most prominent newspapers. However, its reporting at times receives criticism for left-leaning bias and complications related to its ownership by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. This makes it worth asking two important questions: how reliable is the Washington Post and how biased is its coverage?

How Factual Is the Washington Post?

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, the Washington Post scored an average Factual Grade of 63.8%. This is slightly above the average of 61.9% for all 240 news sources that we analyzed, placing the paper in the 54th percentile of our dataset.

Like any news source, scores for articles from the Washington Post varied widely based on factors like author expertise and cited evidence. For example, some scored above 90%, while others scored below 50%.

Are you tired of vetting the news just to get the facts?
Get the best news in your inbox every morning. Determined by data, not politics.
Thank you!

Please check your email for instructions to ensure that the newsletter arrives in your inbox tomorrow.

Oops! Something went wrong.

The Factual also 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 Washington Post had an average Writing Tone score of 0.62, placing it in the 52nd percentile in our dataset. This suggests that while some articles from the site may be neutral in tone, others exhibit opinionated writing.

How Biased Is the Washington Post?

Together, assessments from media bias organizations indicate that the Washington Post has a “Moderate Left” bias. 

AllSides gives the Washington Post a “Lean Left” bias, based on survey data, editorial review, and over 60,141 community ratings. The most recent analysis from AllSides comes from a survey of 1,414 people across the political spectrum placed the newspaper on the border between “Lean Left” and “Center.” This survey revealed that surprising portions of left-leaning readers saw the newspaper as slightly conservative, while a majority of right-leaning readers saw it as slightly liberal.

Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC) reaches a similar conclusion, giving the Washington Post a “Left-Center” classification. The publication “often publishes factual information that utilizes loaded words to favor liberal causes,” according to MBFC. They also give it credit for “Mostly Factual” reporting and use of credible sources. MBFC documents two failed fact checks, one related to Russian hacking and another related to the 2020 presidential election.

Other aspects of the newspaper’s operation make an overall left-leaning bias apparent. For example, it has endorsed Democratic presidential candidates in every election since 1976. Likewise, article titles, particularly in the opinion section, reveal some bias: “The Trump administration created this awful border policy. It doesn’t need Congress to fix it.” and “Biden is making the Trump presidency seem like a golden age of unity.” 

Who Owns the Washington Post?

Amazon founder and executive chairman Jeff Bezos famously owns the Washington Post. Executive Editor Martin Baron has insisted that Bezos has not tried to influence the output of the paper: “He’s never suggested a story to anybody here, he’s never critiqued a story, he’s never suppressed a story.” The paper argues this is still the case in 2021. 

There are instances of articles that clearly favor Bezos and Amazon, such as “Think twice before changing the tax rules to soak billionaires.” However, they also published articles that are highly critical of Amazon, such as “Amazon Key is Silicon Valley at its most out-of-touch.”

Want to spend less time searching for the best news stories?
Get the best news in your inbox every morning. Determined by data, not politics.
Thank you!

Please check your email for instructions to ensure that the newsletter arrives in your inbox tomorrow.

Oops! Something went wrong.

How to Mitigate Bias

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.

Article updated on December 12, 2021 to reflect new data.

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.