From 2017 to 2022, Statista found Buzzfeed to be the least accurate of news sources at 34%. According to Statista, less than 50% of adults surveyed agreed that Buzzfeed was the least accurate of the news organizations mentioned. The survey also found that about 70% of those asked felt more concerned with bias being in the news that other people consumed rather than with their news source.
Considering its reputation, the publication at Buzzfeed is not always inaccurate. It has been praised for doing an excellent job of posting some articles that are not erroneous or biased. Is Buzzfeed 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 Buzzfeed.
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
So How Does Buzzfeed Fare in its Reliability?
The political bias index developed by Biasly objectively assesses news organizations’ dependability. Buzzfeed has a rating of 84% reliability on our meter, which suggests readers can trust most of Buzzfeed’s content online. However, since there is an average, certain articles could be more or less trustworthy. Our findings are in line with those of other third-party raters, such as Media/Bias Fact Check which awarded Buzzfeed a “Mostly Factual” grade most likely 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.
Buzzfeed Accuracy and Reliability
The credibility of news organizations is significantly impacted by bias and political orientation. Like numerous other media organizations, Buzzfeed has occasionally been accused of prioritizing the liberal agenda above facts. We can evaluate the integrity of Buzzfeed’s news stories and deduce how well the publication supports assertions with evidence, and see whether this is indeed the case. We will check for selection and omission bias as we asses the articles’ correctness and factuality.
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 a percentage score to accuracy, with one being the least accurate and 100 being the most. Ratings are calculated by weighing assertions with supporting evidence, the number of reliable internal sources, and the number of reliable external sources employed. A full page at Biasly’s website includes dependability and accuracy ratings for newly released Buzzfeed news stories. As we previously stated, according to the reports analytics have assessed, Buzzfeed is generally 84% 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 also, American Military News, which has a moderately conservative bias at 26% and is only 79% reliable according to Biasly. For example, they had one article that was 98% reliable titled,” U.S. Marine Corps account attacks Fox’s Tucker Carlson on Twitter, then deletes it, apologizes,” and another article called, “Op-ed: Guns, Politics, and Media Influence,” that is only 29% reliable. As a result, stories displaying political leaning are less reliable than neutral ones.
For instance, this Buzzfeed article titled, “The Number Of Immigrants Jailed By ICE Has Ballooned Under Biden This Year” is rated at 22% Somewhat Conservative but close to the center. Concerning the selection and omission bias, the author Hamed Aleaziz does a good job of getting a source who is coming across the border. However, Aleaziz fails to interview a border guard for his opinion on what is happening. His source, Mauricio, a 28-year-old from El Salvador, says in his interview:
“This is incredibly difficult — I’m just really on the edge of collapse,” he told BuzzFeed News through a translator. “There’s been no changes in the system in favor of immigrants.”
This article portrays a somewhat conservative stance, mostly due to portraying Biden as doing a poor job with immigration, which goes against the grain of many of Buzzfeed’s stories. However, Aleaziz fails to balance his sources, and commentary while reporting on this challenging subject matter. If Aleaziz had included someone who works on the border and not just an immigrant, he could provide a more holistic view of 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 Buzzfeed 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.
Buzzfeed’s opinions have made some issues in the past with their reliability in their tendency to promote liberal ideologies and individuals; the group has been involved in several controversies where they have been charged with having low credibility in the Trump/Cohen scandal, and falsely making claims before the evidence revealed the truth. The article,” President Trump Directed His Attorney Michael Cohen To Lie To Congress About The Moscow Tower Project,” was advertised as reporting but looked more like an opinion piece with heavy liberal diction. Their commitment to anti-Trump agenda news, superseded their publications of truth and fact to appease their primarily liberal fan base.
Quality of Sources and Facts Used
Buzzfeed 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, “Biden’s $2 Trillion Infrastructure Plan Is No Green New Deal, Progressives Said.” In this article from Zahra HIrji and Ryan Brooks, they only used 12 quotes. Of those 12 quotes, six of them are short, four of them are medium-length, and two are long quotes.
In addition to that, the author’s sources for the article were as follows:
- Congressional Progressive Caucus Rep. Pramila Jayapal
- Ellen Sciale, spokesperson for the youth climate group, Sunrise Movement
- A White House fact sheet
- Maurice Mitchell, director for the Working Families Party
- An unidentified aide to a progressive senator
- One senior administration official who requested to be unnamed
- A senior Biden official who also asked to be unnamed
Overall the quality of the sources seems to be okay, but the biggest problem is that many of them are unnamed and the weight of their quotes diminishes because of that. Furthermore, most of their quotes are optimistic opinions from their sources and are not as much about statistical facts. The article is accurate to the event overall but leaves out the contested aspects of the plan. To give them credit the article is indeed liberal but not excessively so. Still, they consistently tend to lean towards the left when writing it, giving average quality sources and a lack of holistic facts to the article.
The writers Zahra Hirji, and Ryan Brooks, continually use left sources only, like Rep. Pramilla Jayapal, an unidentified aide to a senator, and Ellen Sciales, a spokesperson for the youth climate group Sunrise Movement. The authors also paraphrase a lot and leave out key pieces of information to direct the thought of the readers. The evidence, then, points this article to being committed liberal-leaning and is not a trustworthy source for information on Biden’s plan.
The article from above, “President Trump Directed His Attorney Michael Cohen To Lie To Congress About The Moscow Tower Project,” is an example of misinformation as the story was expedited to beat competitors and erroneously reported on the incident. The article was mostly incorrect and they used inaccurate sources. For example, they used a source known as “individual 1” and stated in their article, “widely understood to be Trump” which shows that they were making an assumption about a source and used it as fact. In truth not even the statements were correct.
Selection and Omission Bias
In a more extreme example from Buzzfeed, we can see an author portray approval of the selection committee to the Jan. 6 protest in Washington D.C., even though she tries to be objective. The article, “A House Select Committee Will Officially Investigate The Jan. 6 Insurrection” by Kadia Goba, tends to focus on the contributions of Democrats in the area investigating the attack on the capitol, but limits the mention of Republicans helping out. Furthermore, only one of her quotes comes from a Republican, the rest are left-wing. The total number of quotes from her article is only four, with two being short quotes, one being long, and one medium-length quote. Here we see the quote used from the Republican source, Rep. Beth Van Duyne of Texas:
“It’s [the debate] a distraction meant to mask humanitarian failures at the border, massive spikes and crime in cities across the country, and absolute inept leadership in confronting our foreign adversaries.” In the quote from Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat, we hear his opinion on the debate, “To them, I apologize they [the officers who were present at the Jan. 6 protest] have to hear this debate.”
Throughout the article, Goba makes use of extreme language that disparages Republicans. The author omits the fact that sensible Democrats and Republicans worked together to stop the protest at the capitol. Instead, she only focuses on Democrats bringing aid to the officers who were protecting the capitol from the protestors. Goba even goes so far as to use the title and images to provide a left-leaning opinion on the events that happened on Jan. 6.
In the article we discussed earlier, “Biden’s $2 Trillion Infrastructure Plan Is No Green New Deal, Progressives Said,” the authors omit any comments from GOP or Democratic party opposition, and they frame the title to the ideologies of the left. They refuse to account for others’ perspectives and try to portray the issue from only one point of view instead of a fact-based point of view reducing their reliability. Additionally, none of the sources that the authors used had opposite leanings, they were all Democrats. In this quote by Ellen Sciales, “I think it’s a step towards our vision of a Green New Deal,” we see how the author frames the Biden deal as a good thing without contradicting opinions. By omitting contradictory points of view, the authors reduce the reliability of their article, making stories like these sound like opinion pieces.
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, Buzzfeed 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.
So Is the Buzzfeed Reliable?
Finally, it can be argued that Buzzfeed is a semi-reliable news source with an adequate reputation for journalistic integrity, 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.