The New York Times is one of the largest newspapers in the U.S. and plays a prominent role in the media landscape. 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 analyzed 785,000 news articles from 32 major news sources between January 1, 2020 and May 18, 2021. Each news source published at least 5,000 articles over the time period — at least 10 articles per day.

Within this dataset, the New York Times scored an average Factual Grade of 68.0% across 56,994 articles, above the 62.0% average for articles across the entire dataset. This places the New York Times in the 75th percentile for scores in the dataset.

Scores for every article, as rated by The Factual’s credibility algorithm, vary significantly for each source. This shows how the components of author expertise, writing tone, and provided evidence change for each article. For instance, some articles from the New York Times scored 90% or above, while others scored below 50%. 

A high grade for a specific article means an article is informative, relatively objective, and written by a topical expert. A low grade means many of these elements were not present or could not be verified. However, such an article may still hold merit, but readers should know to treat it with greater scrutiny. Together, the scores tell us roughly how credible news sources are. To learn more, visit our How It Works page.

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

How to Mitigate Bias

Of course, having an overall liberal bias does not disqualify the New York Times from producing factual news. Most news articles have some bias because all authors have some frame of reference within which they describe a story. Political bias ratings are useful in understanding this framing. However, it can be more useful to know how factual an article is based on the cited evidence and whether the tone of writing is objective or opinionated. This is what The Factual Grade ascertains. Reading several highly rated articles across the political spectrum, from highly credible liberal and conservative sources, helps counter the framing bias of any news source or story.

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Published by Phillip Meylan

Phillip is a writer, researcher, and editor. He is a contributor to FP Analytics, Foreign Policy's research and advisory division, and an adjuct fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. During Covid-19, he has spent time enjoying the great outdoors, reading, and watching soccer.