The New York Times is one of the largest newspapers in the U.S. It has roughly 100 million registered users — readers who can only read a set number of articles per month — and its advertising department claims to reach an online audience of 164.2 million users globally. Recognized by many for its factual reporting, the newspaper also must contend perceptions of and questions about its liberal bias. How reliable is the New York Times and how biased is it?

How Factual Is the New York Times?

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 New York Times scored an average Factual Grade of 69.6%. This is well above the average of 61.9% for all 240 news sources and places the site in the 84th percentile of our dataset.

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

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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 New York Times had an average Writing Tone of 0.64, placing it in the 58th percentile in our dataset. This suggests that articles from the news source tend toward using neutral language, though some articles may exhibit opinionated language. The average Writing Tone score for the overall dataset was 0.56.

How Biased Is the New York Times?

The Factual relies on third-party media bias ratings to inform our classification of news outlets. Using these metrics, the New York Times is classified as “Moderate Left.” 

AllSides rates the New York Times as “Lean Left,” based on survey data and over 67,000 ratings from the community. According to AllSides, “A plurality of respondents . . . rated The New York Times as Lean Left. A plurality of respondents who self-reported a personal bias of Right rated The New York Times as far Left.” 

Meanwhile, Media Bias/Fact Check gives the paper a “Left-Center” rating, as well as a “High” rating for factual reporting. Such “Left-Center” sources “often publish factual information that utilizes loaded words to favor liberal causes.”

Editors for the newspaper have noted this bias, both recently and in years past. In answering the question “Is the New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?,” then-editor Daniel Okrent plainly replied “Of course it is.” In 2016, Liz Spayd, the current public editor, admitted the newspaper is “part of a fracturing media environment that reflects a fractured country” and that 65 percent of its readers possess “political values that were left of center.”

As a result, it is no surprise that the New York Times is criticized from the right. In recent years, the newspaper has been a lightning rod in some regards. Work like the 1619 Project, which looks at the legacy of slavery in the United States, are focal points of discussions on liberal “propaganda.” Other recent controversies include the resignation of a former writer and editor for the opinion section, over “bullying by colleagues” and an “illiberal environment,” as well as the backlash related to a Tom Cotton op-ed in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder.   

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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.

This article was 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.