Townhall began as one of the earliest online political communities, launched in 1995 by the Heritage Foundation as “the first major investment in online activism made by either side.” The site publishes online columns and other media, including from members of the Trump family, radio host and recent California gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder, and many others. However, the site has many critics for its one-sided journalistic approach that strongly favors conservative causes and fails to include adequate or reliable sourcing. In addition to strong bias, the site has a reputation for repeatedly failing fact checks, giving it a reputation as untrustworthy. So, is Townhall a reliable news source and how biased is it?

How Factual Is Townhall? 

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, Townhall scored an average Factual Grade of 45.9%. This is well below the 61.9% average for all 245 news sources that we analyzed and is amongst the lowest scores in our dataset. In fact, Townhall had the 14th-lowest average for all sources that we measured, scoring in the 5th percentile. 

A number of factors contribute to these low scores. Critically, many articles lack sufficient evidence, meaning there is sparse sourcing of information in the form of direct quotes or links to relevant, high-quality articles. Some articles include almost no relevant sources at all. Many articles also score poorly due to highly biased language and headlines, suggesting that articles aim to elicit an emotional response rather than neutrally convey information. Finally, the site receives mixed scores for author expertise, which suggests that authors for Townhall either rarely cover the same topics consistently, a sign of low topical expertise, or fail to write high-quality content generally. 

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

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How Opinionated Is Townhall?

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.

Townhall had an average Writing Tone score of 0.32, placing it in the 13th percentile in our dataset. This suggests that articles from Townhall almost always incorporate highly opinionated or loaded language. Such language seeks to elicit an emotional response from the reader rather than neutrally convey information.

What Is Townhall’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 Townhall a “Right” bias. 

AllSides classifies Townhall as having a “Right” bias based on independent research and 23,870 ratings from the community. Though community respondents have not always agreed with this rating, at times favoring a classification of “Lean Right,” AllSides feels this is justified by the site’s self-description as the r“#1 conservative website.” However, AllSides needs to conduct an extensive review of Townhall.

Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC) assigns Townhall a “Right” bias and further labels the site as “Questionable” due to “consistent one-sided reporting that always favors the right” as well as several failed fact checks. MBFC classifies “Questionable” sources as those that exhibit “​​extreme bias, consistent promotion of propaganda/conspiracies, poor or no sourcing to credible information, a complete lack of transparency, and/or is fake news.” Specifically, MBFC highlights that Townhall exclusively favors right-leaning perspectives, does not engage with or present left-leaning perspectives, almost always uses loaded language, and has repeatedly failed fact checks (MBFC provides 8 examples).

Who Owns Townhall?

Townhall is owned by the Salem Media Group, which describes itself as a “leading media company serving the nation’s Christian and conservative communities.” Townhall was originally a part of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, but was purchased by the Salem Media Group in 2005. Townhall generates revenue through subscriptions and advertising.

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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.