For the past several years, I’ve looked far and wide for good ratings of media sources. Media Bias / Fact Check (MB/FC) is the best one I’ve been able to find. Indeed, every criticism of MB/FC that I have ever seen fails to mention a media assessment source that is better!
That says it all right there. As someone who is neither a Democrat nor a Republican and who tries to get my news from different political viewpoints, I think I’m a bit more nonpartisan than most (I encourage you to read through this blog or my answers at Quora to get a sense of my nonpartisan objectivity and how it compares to others).
MB/FC’s rating matches my personal assessment better than any other resource that rates media bias I’ve been able to find. I’ve also used it quite heavily in the past few years and I can’t really complain about any of its ratings. I don’t ever recommend turning off your own critical analysis skills when reading anything, including an article from a site with a great rating from MB/FC, but in general, I find them very reliable.
Ad Fontes media’s chart is pretty good, but they should have Bloomberg left of center (Michael Bloomberg ran as a Democrat, and his media company’s coverage makes it clear why) and The Economist as either centrist or right of center. The AllSides chart is also decent, but not as comprehensive as the other two, also mischaracterizes The Economist as left of center, and also the BBC as centrist when I think it is very clearly left of center (and you’ll notice that nobody on this page nor in the comments disputes any of these judgments).
The only other source of media bias ratings that I am aware of is Mondo Times, referenced in this paper by Gentzkow & Shapiro. However, they have a ridiculous media source ranking that has Turner Classic Movies in the top spot and social media platform YouTube in the top ten. I strongly feel that almost all social media platforms belong near the bottom of the list because they have no mechanisms for accountability for factual accuracy.
What Makes MB/FC Reliable?
The biggest factor that gives me confidence in MB/FC’s ratings is how much the best three resources agree with each other, particularly on the least biased sources such as AP, Reuters, Financial Times, and Christian Science Monitor (contrast this with the divergence in company ESG ratings). The above are pretty much the main differences that I have noticed. Furthermore, as an investment professional where news accuracy is of utmost importance to making good investment decisions for our clients, I have been extremely satisfied with the sources I’ve rely upon in the past several years which were chosen partially due to their excellent ratings from MB/FC.
Now, I recommend MB/FC often in various forums, and every time I do, I always ask the other people if they know of a better site for media bias ratings. I am always rather bemused that none of them ever do (and they usually don’t even know about the others). In my experience, the people who usually complain about media bias really just want an easy way to dismiss whatever sources you want to cite in the discussion and haven’t spent any time or effort actually doing anything to reduce the amount of media bias that they experience in their lives.
But me, not only do I utilize MB/FC to reduce the bias I experience, I also built a Google Custom Search Engine utilizing the “Least Biased” sources as rated by MB/FC. Feedback welcome, of course!
Bryan W. White, the creator of Zebra Fact Check (ZFC), is critical of MB/FC based on their methodology, although he, too, has also declined to cite a media ratings resource that he thought was better. See his comments at my Quora answer for more details. From what I see at his site, ZFC does not even attempt to have a balanced story selection and instead appears to overwhelmingly cite White’s complaints about PolitiFact from the right (indeed, another project of White’s is PolitiFact Bias).
Although his site argues about the importance of diverse teams (or “polarized” as he calls it), I think it strains credulity that a diverse team could have signed off on this story selection or that a conservative journalism major seeking to improve fact-checking would not be able to find a liberal team member in the thirteen years he’s been doing this. I also find unsatisfactory his explanation of their unbalanced story selection (he claims exempted from this because their goal is to “fix problems in the fact-checking network”).
Why? Because judging from the posted comments at his criticism of MB/FC, it should be evident what effect his efforts are having on the polarization threatening this country. I agree that fact-checking can and should be improved, but it seems obvious that the primary impact of his one-sided partisan approach would be to make Republicans even more distrustful and dismissive of the entire fact-checking endeavor than they already are, thus making it even easier for politicians and other actors to spread misinformation in this era of social media and fake news. A far more productive approach would be to build a better fact-checking site that both conservatives and liberals can trust.
But I encourage you to look at his site and his comments at my original Quora answer (disclosure, I temporarily blocked Bryan when it became clear he wasn’t willing to listen). Then judge for yourself whether you think White has a more objective and nonpartisan stance than myself, and whether I was unfair to observe that he seemed to have “an axe to grind against Politifact.” I will freely admit that his comments have provided me feedback that I have used to significantly improve this post.
MB/FC rates ZFC as “Right-Center” with a Factual Reporting level of “High.”
Also updated 1/7/22 to add Mondo Times.
Originally posted at Quora, and it is worth noting that none of the other answers to that same question were able to present an alternate source of media bias ratings that they considered better.
2 thoughts on “How Trustworthy Is Media Bias / Fact Check?”
[…] than Ad Fontes Media and AllSides, and you can read more of what I have to say about them here. If you’re aware of a better resource, please let me […]
Felix Ling wrote:
“I also find unsatisfactory his explanation of their unbalanced story selection (he claims exempted from this because their goal is to “fix problems in the fact-checking network”).”
You should have read the entire paragraph. I explained why the IFCN criterion asking fact-checking orgs to avoid concentrating on one side ultimately doesn’t make any sense where there’s no monopoly. Rather, it makes sense to focus on encouraging good fact-checking regardless of story selection.
As I have further explained, a media market is well-served by two fact checkers who each check one of two political parties using good fact-checking practices.
View at Medium.com
I appreciate you linking to my comments at the Zebra Fact Check website, even though your description was a bit misleading.