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Is AlterNet Reliable?

By · Nov 25, 2023 · 8 min read

Is AlterNet Reliable?

Since AlterNet’s founding it has had a tendency to produce news that is left-leaning. The comments on the website hint that its audience has a liberal perspective. Due to its political tendency, there are some questions about its reliability, though it managed to produce news that is not biased or incorrect.

Is AlterNet as wrought with bias and a lack of trustworthiness as people believe? At Biasly, we endeavor to evaluate the accuracy and dependability of all media outlets. Let us investigate the reliability and accuracy of AlterNet.

Does Reliability Matter?

Reliability, in general, refers to how trustworthy or accurate information, or in this case, a news source is. If we consider this definition, it quickly becomes clear why reliability is important in media sources. If we can’t trust the things we read then there isn’t much of a point in continuing to consume content from that source, after all. So how exactly can we gauge the reliability of a news source anyways?

There are several potential measures of reliability to look out for when trying to determine whether a media source is reliable or not. Red flags for an unreliable article can include the presence of wild unsubstantiated claims, facts dependent on other unreliable sources, heavy use of opinionated language, and more. Some indicators of a reliable news source, on the other hand, include things like:

  • Absence of subjective/opinionated language in articles
  • Credible sources cited (e.g., neutral sources, .gov, .edu websites)
  • Facts and statistics backed by multiple relevant outside sources
  • Use of primary sources when possible (e.g., interviews, quotes)
  • Information that remains consistent across news sources

How Does AlterNet Rate In Reliability?

The political bias index developed by Biasly objectively assessed news organizations’ dependability. Biasly’s reliability rating for AlterNet has an Analyst rating of 66% reliability on our meter, which suggests readers can trust much of Buzzfeed’s content online, and a Computer reliability rating is 63%, which indicates a Fair rating, or Grade C, on its source and quotes’ quality. However, since there is an average, specific articles could be more or less trustworthy. Our findings align with those of other third-party raters, showing mostly factual because they have retracted several stories in the past or had pieces that were not factual.

Let us analyze the supporting data for these rankings and discuss what to watch out for while searching for trustworthy news sources.

Alternet Accuracy and Credibility

All good news sites want to be credible and accurate when writing and publishing articles for their news site. Alternet has been criticized for disregarding those ethics and continuously pushing left-leaning ideas to their readers, even if it meant twisting some facts or presenting information in specific ways to create a narrative. To evaluate Alternet, we must look at their articles and the evidence they use to support themselves and see if they use it in a biased or unbiased way. One way to ensure this is to look for selection and omission bias in these articles.

Selection bias is when stories and facts are selected or deselected, often on ideological grounds, to create a narrative in support of the new sources’ ideology. Omission bias, on the other hand, is when different opinions and political views regarding a situation are left out so that the reader is only exposed to the ideological perspective supported by the author. It’s important to keep in mind these two types of biases when trying to assess an article’s level of accuracy.

Biasly assigns an easily understood percentage score for accuracy, with one being the lowest and showing it as the most inaccurate up to one hundred, meaning it is super accurate. To get these ratings, Biasly ratings are calculated by weighing assertions with supporting evidence, the number of reliable internal sources, and the number of reliable external sources employed. Biasly’s website rates articles and writers on their accuracy and reliability. As we previously stated, according to the reports analytics have assessed, AlterNet is generally 66% reliable. This score can vary from article to article, though, and the most extreme variations in dependability are caused by bias, notably omission, and selection bias.

Consider Fox News, which has a very conservative bias and is only 43% reliable, according to Biasly. For instance, they have an article that was 96% reliable, titled “Biden operatives begin opposition research on potential 2024 GOP presidential candidates,” and another article called “Jen Psaki keeps doing her best to cover up Democrats’ awful abortion secret” has only 45% reliability. As a result, stories displaying political leaning are less reliable than neutral ones.

For example, AlterNet has an article titled “Highest drop out rate in Florida college’s history fueled by DeSantis’ ‘censorship’: report“ is rated at the center. Concerning the selection and omission bias, the author Maya Boodie does a good job about the college dropouts in Florida. Nevertheless, the author fails to interview a college student or an administrative staff regarding the issue. One of her sources, The New York Times, reported;

“What DeSantis once described as a culture of ‘woke indoctrination’ has been replaced by one of censorship: Student murals have been painted over, and student orientation leaders were forbidden from wearing pins expressing support for Black Lives Matter or the LGBTQ+ community”

The article displays a stance at the center by only reporting DeSantis’s actions and their consequences on college students without adding any comment. This is in contrast with many of AlterNet’s stories since they are usually left-leaning. However, the author has some issues with balancing the sources; if she had included a student or a staff, it would be more comprehensive about the issue. Therefore, this article can be considered mostly reliable.

We will take a closer look at more examples like this below, providing a further investigation into the reliability of Buzzfeed’s articles. This will include its use of selection bias, omission bias, and the quality of its sources and facts used.

Analysis of Reliability in AlterNet Opinion Pieces

Opinion-style journalism is a suitable venue for reporters to express their opinions and beliefs, even if excessive opinion might be something to avoid while producing a general news article. Although opinion pieces are less trustworthy because they are subjective, they can still be worthwhile to read to increase one’s understanding of various political viewpoints.

AlterNet’s views have caused some issues in the past with their reliability in their tendency to promote liberal ideologies and individuals. The sources and quotations make the reader question the credibility of AlterNet.

One example of this can be seen in the article “‘Fundamental problem’: What Trump’s ‘fanatical worshippers’ get wrong about Christianity.” It was presented as reporting, but it appears like an opinion piece with a liberal diction. The title suggests a negative perspective about Trump and his supporters, thus an unfavorable view towards Republicans. The judgemental tone in the title and the liberal diction within the article superseded their commitment to publish credible news.

Quality of Sources and Facts Used

AlterNet can be good at using reliable sources from both sides of the ideological divide and citing facts as evidence; however, this is not the case for every article. For instance, think about “Why Joe Biden is driving the media crazy?”. In this article from Amanda Marcotte, she used only six quotes, and all of them are short.

Additionally, the author’s 13 sources for the article were as follows:

  •   It’s past time for Biden to hold a news conference, Editorial Board, The Washington Post
  •  After 50 days as president, Biden still hasn’t given a news conference. Critics and allies wonder why. Paul Farhi, The Washington Post
  • Jonathan Karl, ABC News
  • Peter Baker, The New York Times
  •  The Cuomo scandal illustrates the limits of #MeToo — and the need to hold men to a higher standard. Amanda Marcotte, Salon
  • Cuomo decries “cancel culture” after group of New York lawmakers calls for his resignation Jon Skolnik, Salon
  • What a mess — the media’s dopey Biden gotcha stories by Eric Boehlert
  • Ted Cruz, R-Tx.
  • Biden’s COVID relief bill is a BFD: House passes historically progressive package — and it’s popular Jon Skolnik, Salon
  • More than two-thirds of Americans support Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid relief plan, poll finds. Jacob Pramuk, CNN
  • Ted Cruz caught fleeing Texas for Cancun, rushes back after #CancunCruz trends on Twitter. Jon  Skolnik, Salon
  •  A (culture) war of desperation: Without Trump, Republicans wage their last stand. Heather Digby Parton, Salon
  • Birth of a “Troll Nation”: Amanda Marcotte on how and why conservatives embraced the dark side. Andrew O’hehir, Salon

In general, the number of sources looks fine, but the main problem is that many of them are coming from left-leaning sources except for what appears to be one quote from Ted Cruz; because of that, the reliability of quotes weakens. Moreover, the quotes lean to support Biden and not to objective facts. To give the author credit, the article is liberal and regularly leans towards the left throughout the article and uses very left-leaning sources and a scarcity of comprehensive facts.

The author, Amanda Marcott, mainly uses left-leaning sources such as Salon, The New York Times, ABC News, and the Washington Post. Also, there is a lot of paraphrased information that is left to affect the reader’s mind. The evidence shows that this article is a dedicated liberal-leaning and not a credible source about Joe Biden unless you only want to hear one side of the story, which can increase polarization.

The article from above, “Fundamental problem’: What Trump’s ‘fanatical worshippers’ get wrong about Christianity” uses an opinion piece to explain Trump supporters’ religiosity. The author used a Daily Beast opinion article and did not include the reasons and other facts that the opinion article provided. Only selected quotations are used to give some information about the issue. Nevertheless, the article is poor in terms of reliable sources and lacks support for the presented argument.

Selection and Omission Bias

In another example from AlterNet, it is possible to see the author’s emphasis on climate change policies during the Biden administration and criticizing Donald Trump about this. The article “How Joe Biden could really burn Donald Trump” by Thor Benson tends to focus on comparing Donald Trump’s and Joe Biden’s views about climate change but limits Trump’s views about that.

Also, none of the quotes are coming from a Republican source. The total number of quotes is five; four of them are short, and two are medium-length. For instance, a quote from Karuna Jagger, California political director at the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund:

“Biden has said the climate crisis is the existential threat to humanity, and it’s time he acts like it. That means more than talk and more than investment in renewables,”

Throughout the article, Benson does not refrain from using language that underestimates Donald Trump. The author omits the ideas or statements of Donald Trump about climate change. Instead, he only focuses on Joe Biden’s ideas and actions about climate change and the quotes that only include Joe Biden. Benson even goes so far as to use a title that is arranged for left-leaning.

In the article discussed above, Why Joe Biden is driving the media crazy? the author omits any view from the right-wing or Republican party and also creates a title that is in favor of left ideology. She does not include alternative or opposite views and reflects the issue from only one perspective instead of an objective, fact-based view. Furthermore, none of the sources had an opposite leaning; they were all left-leaning, for instance:

As media critic Eric Boehlert noted in the Monday edition of his newsletter, the press is “creating conflict and controversy where none exists,” to the point of absurdity with stories about Biden like when “the New York Times dinged him for being out of touch with voters because of the expensive watch he wears, and the exercise bicycle he uses” while workers were still cleaning up damage to the Capitol from Trump’s insurrection.”

It can be seen that the author frames Biden’s actions without opposing views. By not providing alternative perspectives, the author diminishes the trustworthiness of the article. Additionally, none of the sources are opposite, and all of them are left-leaning.

The author states, “Cruz, of course, is very much the opposite of Biden. He loves trolling for attention and getting into petty culture war fights but doesn’t so much like doing the actual job of governing, which is why he didn’t think twice about abandoning Texas for a Cancun vacation during the winter storm crisis last month.” We see how the author criticizes the opposite viewpoints of Biden, in this case from Ted Cruz. The author diminishes the article’s reliability by not adding more supporting and alternative viewpoints to eliminate selection and omission bias.

In opinion pieces, issues with factuality, sources, selection, and omission are frequently present. The articles we’ve covered so far are mostly biased and exclude adequate relevant background and information that may contradict the author’s position. As a news organization with a liberal slant, AlterNet has a small incentive to continue appealing to liberal viewpoints to maintain the interests of its sizable left-wing readership. But now that we’ve enumerated typical trustworthiness indications, you may stay current by keeping yourself informed on the most accurate news.

Is Alternet reliable?

Finally, it can be argued that AlterNet is a semi to lower-reliable news source with an adequate reputation for journalistic integrity due to its extremely left-leaning tendencies, and some lone exceptions, therefore the degree of truth in its publications fluctuates. The more you research media reliability and accuracy, the simpler it will be for you to spot problems with sources, selection, omission, and factuality. To help with this, you can use Biasly’s News Bias Checker to uncover reliability problems and assist you in finding the most accurate and dependable news.


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