Ad Fontes Media is proud to bring you the latest version of the Media Bias Chart, which is now interactive! For those of you who are familiar with earlier versions of the Media Bias Chart, here’s a summary of what is new compared to the previous (Media Bias Chart 4.0) version:
1. Each news source is backed by ratings data of multiple articles, each rated by at least three Ad Fontes Media analysts having left, right, and center political leanings respectively. You can see and search these ratings throughout the chart and site.
2. The news sources we ranked at the very top, bottom, left, and right of the chart do not land right at the edges of the chart. This positioning more accurately reflects the mix of articles each source actually produces. For example, even our most highly rated sources (e.g., wire services AP and Reuters) do not purely produce “original fact reporting stories.” They produce the greatest percentage of them compared to the others, but they do have some analysis and opinion content as well, which makes their average score reflect that mix.
Similarly, InfoWars doesn’t purely produce false and inaccurate content; it just produces a greater percentage than other sources ranked on the chart.
Individual articles we ranked do fall in higher and lower spots than the overall source scores; if you click on the “toggle articles” button on the chart, you can see those.
We believe this adjustment shows the news landscape more accurately. Now there is room for actual, 100% fake news sources along the bottom of the chart, room for the even fringier right and left stuff (which unfortunately does exist), and room for sources way up at the top that produce just straight fact reporting news.
3. Some of the positions of the sources have changed relative to earlier versions. This change is also more accurate. If you have been following the Media Bias Chart for a while, you may know that the previous versions were all done by Ad Fontes Media’s founder, Vanessa Otero (me writing this—hi everyone!), through her ratings and selected article samples, and some feedback from commentators on our site. She’s quite pleased that some of the overall ratings changed—some a little and some a lot—because it’s more accurate now due to having selected more consistent samples per source and having multiple raters with different political views rate it.
4. More sources overlap, so some have to be removed in different views to see them. That’s why we have the Interactive Media Bias Chart now—you can select and search for sources. We also have several different static views available for subscribers.
5. The vertical axis has been renamed from “Quality” to “Reliability”—a subtle but important shift.
This description is more accurate because the ultimate question we are trying to answer by placing sources on the vertical axis is, very specifically, this:
“What sources can I best rely on to be most widely, deeply, and truthfully informed about things that are important to me, my community, my state, my country, and my world?”
Another way to look at this question is to ask “what sources should a young person, or a person new to this country who is unfamiliar with the news landscape rely on to be most widely, deeply, and truthfully informed?”
This is a question that can only be answered by analyzing the content of the news itself, which is what we do. Sometimes the size or the reach of the source can impact how reliable it is. For example, sources with more journalists tend to be able to provide more reliable news, but that doesn’t always necessarily correlate. Some really large organizations provide an outsized proportion of opinion, analysis, and fluff, while some small local outlets provide highly reliable news on a regular basis.
The question of “reliability” is different that the question of “quality,” because sources can be high quality for other reasons even if they aren’t the most “reliable” ones from which to get news.
For example, some publications have really amazing levels of quality of analysis, opinion, or even humor, so they certainly have value in the media landscape. They may just be less “reliable,” and in the sense that they may be narrowly focused on a few topics and viewpoints, and therefore don’t provide a very wide or deep view of all the news, which ranks them lower. Of course, the less truthful a source is, the lower it is in quality and reliability, so there’s not really a difference there.
If you want to dig into the details of how we gathered all this data, check out our big long white paper about it.
We will continue to rate more sources and add more features, so stay tuned!