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 Does The Factual Rate News Sources? 

The Factual analyzes more than 10,000 news stories every day to help readers find the most informative, least-biased articles. Our news-rating algorithm scores each article along four metrics: (1) cited sources and quotes, (2) publication history, (3) writing tone, and (4) author expertise. These scores combine in a weighted average we call a Factual Grade, which ranges from 0–100%. (See our How It Works page to learn more about our algorithm.)

For this study, we analyzed ~1,000 articles each from 240 news sources. The average Factual Grade for the entire dataset was 62.5%. Based on these averages, we can compare the performance of news sites across the media ecosystem. The entire dataset can be explored in greater detail here.

How Factual Is Reason?

Reason Magazine scored an average Factual Grade of 71.1%, placing it in the 88th 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 80% or above, while others scored below 50%.

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How Opinionated Is Reason?

One of the metrics The Factual uses is the Writing Tone, which measures how opinionated the writing is in an article. For this metric, the algorithm looks for signs of subjective commentary (e.g., first person pronouns and unnecessary adverbs), as well as the emotional nature of selected words, and sees how prevalent they are for a given length of text. More neutral text receives higher ratings, with “0” being the most opinionated and “1” being the most neutral.

Reason had an average score of 0.50, placing it in the 30th percentile in our dataset. This suggests that articles from the site often have an opinionated tone. This can be seen in articles titles such as “‘Woke Capitalism’ Does Not Advance Social Justice” and “Democrats Rediscover the Rhetoric of ‘Freedom.’ How About Rediscovering the Policies?.”

What Is Reason's Political Bias?

The Factual classifies news sites by political bias as either Left, Moderate Left, Center, Moderate Right, or Right. This classification comes from third-party assessments from media bias organizations such as AllSides and Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC). Based on this data, The Factual assigns Reason 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. 

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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, 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 September 22, 2022 to reflect new data.

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.