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Is Alternet Biased?

By · Nov 25, 2023 · 8 min read

Is Alternet Biased?

Alternet is an alternate political media company created in 1998. Alternet boasts on its About page that it receives more than one million unique monthly visitors and more than seven million monthly page views as of 2023.

The amount of monthly views that Alternet has is smaller compared to The New York Times and The Washington Post, to name a few, but that doesn’t mean that Alternet doesn’t have some sway. Alternet has won some awards, such as the Webby Award and the Utne Independent Press Award. Alternet’s increase in popularity also correlates to the rise in alternative media sources and, primarily, in left-leaning content.

In this article, we will analyze the newspaper’s coverage and editorial decisions to determine if there is a discernible political bias in their reporting. Through our analysis, we hope to provide a comprehensive answer to whether AlterNet is biased and shed light on the factors that contribute to media bias in general.

How Does Biasly Rate News Sources?

Biasly’s algorithms produce bias ratings to help provide multiple perspectives on given articles. Biasly has analyzed 200,000+ news articles from more than 3,200 news sources through our A.I. technology and team of political analysts to find the most factual, unbiased news stories.

Biasly determines the degree of political bias in news sources by using Biasly’s Bias Meter Rating, in which Biasly’s team analyzes media sources’ reliability and bias and produces three scores, a Reliability Score that measures the accuracy of media sources; an A.I. Bias Score, evaluated by A.I.; and an Analyst Bias Score evaluated by political analysts. These scores are rated based on seven rating metrics including Tone, Tendency, Diction, Author Check, Selection/Omission, Expediency Bias, and Accuracy. These metrics help our analysts to determine the political attitude of the article.

Our A.I. a machine-learning system employs natural language processing and entity-specific sentiment analysis to examine individual articles and determine their bias levels. By analyzing the key terms in an article such as policies, bias phrases, political terminologies, politicians, and their nicknames, the algorithms can rate the attitude of the text.  Bias scores range from -100% and 100%, with higher negative scores being more liberal and higher positive scores being more conservative, and 0% being neutral.

Is AlterNet Politically Biased?

Biasly’s rating for AlterNet is based on two scores, one from its computer algorithms which are based on A.I., and one from its Analysts. Biasly rated AlterNet with a Computer bias score of Extremely Liberal and an Analyst bias score of Moderately Liberal, which means it provides political coverage from an American liberal political perspective. Analyst scores are based on an average of at least 15 articles reviewed by one liberal, moderate, and conservative analyst. The more articles Biasly’s analyst team rated for a particular source indicates a more accurate analyst score. As Biasly rates more articles, the scores will become more accurate. Praise for liberal politicians and policies and dislike toward Republican policies and politicians contribute to this rating. Biasly’s scores closely align with determinations by other third-party bias research agencies.

Due to Alternet’s extremely liberal biased approach to news, it has created an extreme opinion around itself for its readers like you. People either agree with Alternet or they disagree with it due to all its left-leaning pieces. For the remainder of the article, we will show you how to separate the bias and the facts to help you become a more informed reader in the future.

Alternet has always struggled to appear non-biased. Reviews by unhappy users on the site, sitejabber point this out:

  • “What kind of left-leaning news website reports on precisely zero articles about the current POTUS Joe Biden? Everything on this website is about ex-President Donald Trump or someone in the Republican Party and then hyperbolizing whatever is being said into an end-of-America scenario, typically illustrated with a mix of weird editing choices and bad grammar to match…..”
  • “First of all when entering the site I was immediately tracked by 6 other sites, my spyware informed me. I spend a little time on the site and it seems almost hateful. It tries to be “objective” and “rational”, but ends up in trashing and hating. Not of any use in finding truths or alternative viewpoints on things”
  • “Horrible biased site I came upon quite by accident not realizing how weak this site is in the way of not being able to accept a differing opinion given in a civil tone. The regular commenters are vile and quite vicious almost to the point of not being taken seriously. I will not waste my time on such a low-life site. It’s THEIR way or no way.”

Before we begin, we need to discuss bias. Bias is a natural function of humans, and we can express it both consciously and unconsciously. Bias is one of the most fundamental forms of pattern recognition in humans. This isn’t to lower the bar and say that “all things are biased,” but to explain the process in which we may come to trust certain news organizations that display patterns of coverage.

On the media’s part, there is an incentive to retain audiences, encourage them to purchase subscriptions, and rate products positively. Bias is a two-way street, people want to see news stories about things they care about, and the media needs viewers to continue their operations. This creates a positive feedback loop that influences what stories are covered and from what perspective. This also explains the actions of more liberal news organizations.

Analysis of Bias in AlterNet online articles

When determining bias, some of the most common metrics used include Tone, Author, and Diction, which are the primary metrics we’ll focus on below. Tone refers to the attitude of the writing and is related to but distinct from diction, which is the writer’s word choices. The Author metric refers to the author of the article and his or her demonstrated stance on issues through past articles and social media posts.

The first article we’ll look at is” ‘Deliberate’ GOP voter campaign seeks to follow in Democrats’​​ footsteps: report” Biasly has rated this article as Somewhat Liberal on the bias meter. The reason for this rating is that the author has a tendency to maintain neutrality, but the tone suggests that he has negative opinions about Donald Trump.

The tone is made clear throughout the article when the author argues that the Republican campaign is similar to the Democrats’ campaign.

“The GOP aims to win in 2024 by using a Democratic strategy through the Republican National Committee’s new “Bank Your Vote” campaign, Spectrum News reports.”

She explains the similarities of the campaign messages’ of both sides and then the author uses this sentence:

“California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson said the GOP’s goal is to combine “an incredibly robust grassroots volunteer organization” “

This is done to emphasize the campaigns that Republicans will do, which is emphasized throughout the article. Even though the language of the article is not extreme, it seems to acknowledge that Republicans will make a campaign similar to Democrats for the elections, making it appear that Democrats are superior to Republicans.

In the article, the author displays some omission bias by selecting quotes that are not in favor of the Republican campaign. For instance, she includes quotes from Kevin Munoz, Joe Biden’s 2024 campaign spokesperson:

“Republicans are playing catch up on an issue that shouldn’t have been political, but the former leader of their party decided to make it a political one.”

Nevertheless, the author did not exclude the Republican officials, for instance, a quote from California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson:

“We are not going to cede that ground to Democrats, we were going to get out there and we were going to do it as well as they did.”

Using both contributes to neutrality and diminishes bias.

To sum up, the author endeavors objectivity mostly but provides selected views from sources that don’t favor the Republican campaign, and she ultimately spins the story to reinforce one side. All of this suggests that, while some elements of this article were neutral, the article was left-leaning overall, which aligns with our analysis of AlterNet as a news source with a tendency to lean left in its biases.

Even though this article falls on the left end of the spectrum, article bias can differ between articles and authors, even when they come from the same organization. This shows the importance of looking for the signs of bias — including (but not limited to) tone, diction, author, tendency, and expediency bias — in any article you come across.

To demonstrate, here’s one more article that demonstrates little to no bias throughout and also comes from AlterNet: “‘Trainwreck’: A new state law has ‘Arizona’s election officials waving red flags’” Biasly’s A.I. rating for the article is “Somewhat Liberal,” as the language throughout is very cut-and-dry, objectively stating the facts and avoiding emotionally loaded language influencing the reader’s opinion:

“Per the report, officials say “the state could miss a crucial deadline to report its vote tallies in the” 2024 presidential election “if state lawmakers don’t solve calendar issues that might arise if there’s an automatic recount.””

Analysis of AlterNet Opinion Articles

Before exploring this issue, we must distinguish between opinion and reporting. While reporting is intended to be neutral, giving the reader the facts and quotes from primary sources to let them form their own opinion, opinions are an outlet for columnists to express their personal views on the day’s issues. While we saw elements of factual reporting in the analysis above, the AlterNet opinion pieces don’t seek objectivity but prioritize putting forth an opinion instead.

Consider the opinion article “’Florida goes full fascist’: Ron DeSantis sparks furious backlash with ‘authoritarian’ campus political surveys” The title is loaded with bias because it includes a negative and judgemental opinion towards the actions of DeSantis. Especially the word “fascist” indicates that DeSantis’s actions are fascist, and in this context, it is used to affect the reader’s opinion. The apparent bias in the title and the harsh criticism towards Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis indicates that the author does not aim to offer neutral and objective reporting. Even though this article is an opinion piece, authors can still be respectful of the other side without using loaded diction and tone.

In contrast, the article “McCarthy plans ‘step forward’ to President Joe Biden impeachment despite GOP opposition” The title only reports on an event that happened without inserting any pointed remarks. The article remains mostly unbiased, only reporting the facts of the matter. Reliable articles are marked by neutral language and facts from credible sources. Based on the title alone, it could be safely assumed that this article would be less biased than the previous one.

The articles provided here offer just a glimpse of the content available on the Alternet website. They serve as examples highlighting the prevalent presence of opinion pieces within the outlet’s offerings. This underscores the significance of developing the ability to differentiate between subjective editorial content and objective reporting.

Who owns Alternet?

The Independent Media Institute initially launched Alternet, but it was later acquired by Raw Story in 2018. Raw Story was founded in 2004 by John K. Byrne and Micheal Rogers. John Byrne (no valid photos found) and Micheal Rogers are both owners of Raw Story and AlterNet; they have been writing and publishing articles on both sites. AlterNet was financed by individual donations, advertisement revenues, and major donors, until 2018.

Michael Rogers
Michael Rogers
Source: Wikipedia

How to Evaluate and Uncover Bias

It can often be difficult to tell if the news you watch is biased. If you have settled on a news channel, it’s usually because you trust the information you are gaining. Unfortunately, many trust the information they are hearing because it confirms what they already believe. This is referred to as “confirmation bias.” It is important to challenge your beliefs and get third-party verification that what you are hearing is the full story. This is why we recommend using Biasly to compare different news stories side-by-side using our bias ratings to figure out what both sides think of a political issue.

Although Biasly gave AlterNet a Very Liberal bias score, it should be remembered that bias changes by article, and AlterNet does not only publish liberal thought pieces. In fact, it is known to have produced some centrist articles before. Moreover, some article types will naturally have more or less bias; general news articles are known for being less biased than opinion pieces. And while every article you read will be biased to some degree, some stick to the facts better than others, which is why it’s so important to use Biasly’s News Check to help you determine the bias of what you read.


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