From a Boston University dorm room to a defender and publisher of libertarian philosophy, Reason proposes solutions to partisan politics. Its core tenet — “free minds, free markets” — supplies principled arguments on a range of issues. Depending on who you ask, this reliance either powers transparent journalism or is ideological to a fault. Against this backdrop, The Factual asked two questions: how factual is Reason Magazine, and how biased is it?

How Factual Is Reason Magazine?

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, Reason Magazine scored an average Factual Grade of 70.2%. This is above the average of 61.9% for all 245 news sources that we analyzed. This means the site scores very well, in the 87th percentile of our dataset.

Reason’s principled approach to journalism explains these reliable scores, including extensive supporting evidence from a wide array of sources. Moreover, Reason dedicates journalists to specific topics, leading to high scores for author expertise. 

As rated by The Factual’s credibility algorithm, scores vary widely. This shows that measurements of author expertise, writing tone, and provided evidence change markedly by article. For instance, some articles from Reason scored 90% or above, 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.

How Biased Is Reason Magazine?

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.

Reason had an average score of 0.46, placing it in the 30th percentile in our dataset. This suggests that articles from the site often have a moderately opinionated tone. The average for all 240 sites in our dataset was 0.56.

What Is Reason Magazine's Political Bias?

While Reason positions itself outside of the left-right political spectrum, assessments from media bias organizations indicate that Reason has a “Moderate Right” bias.

AllSides gives Reason a “Lean Right” bias based on independent study, editorial review, and 15,288 community ratings. AllSides ultimately assigns a right-leaning classification because “coverage generally reflects perspectives favoring small government, deregulation of private business, and individual liberty.”

Data from an AllSides survey supports this observation. On average, Respondents viewed Reason as “Right,” although Center and Right respondents viewed it as “Lean Right.” The majority of left-leaning respondents categorized Reason as “Right” or “Lean Right.”

Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC) corroborates this classification, rating Reason as having “Right-Center” bias. This is due to the publication’s tendency to “utilize loaded words to favor conservative causes” throughout its headlines and articles. Examples include: “Journalist Butchery of School Board Protests Upending Politics in Virginia and Elsewhere” or “Jobs Killing Climate Corps Is Not The Way To Solve Climate Change.” As a result, it sometimes blurs the line between opinion and journalism. MBFC does note, however, that Reason has not failed any fact checks in the last five years, demonstrating the publication’s commitment to factual information.

Looking more broadly, Reason’s coverage of climate change is worthy of review. MBFC elaborates, “when it comes to low regulations, Reason Magazine resists taking action on climate change. Although they do not deny climate change is occurring and influenced by humans, they minimize the impact in favor of fewer regulations.”

In the past, the Reason Foundation was the recipient of grant money from the Koch brothers, famous climate change skeptics, amounting to $1.7 million between 1997 and 2008. David Koch was a trustee of the Reason Foundation for 36 years and served on the board of directors. The space for climate change skepticism is demonstrated by articles such as “Climate Scientists Manipulated Temperature Data to Fool Politicians and Public” and publishing articles from commentators such as John Stossel, who has made claims perceived to challenge the scientific consensus on climate change. 

Who Owns Reason?

Reason Magazine is published and owned by the Reason Foundation, an American libertarian think tank founded in 1978. As a nonprofit, it relies on publication revenues and donations; according to data from the IRS, it raised $42,592,101 in 2018. Additionally, a 2018 report by PR Watch found that 22.4% of this total revenue came from eight right-wing groups. Its largest donors are Searle Freedom Trust and two Charles Koch nonprofits. Many members of its leadership hold similar positions at conservative think tanks, businesses, and nonprofits, which reinforces perceptions of its right-leaning orientation. 

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, from cited evidence, to author expertise, to the 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 February 1, 2021 to reflect new data and descriptive text.

Published by Zain Bali

Zain is a researcher, writer, and marketer at The Factual. He is interested in policy, mass media, and politics. Before joining The Factual, he earned a B.S. in public health from Ohio State University. He has worked as a social media manager for a healthcare advocacy group and food science researcher.