HuffPost is a New York City-based media company founded in 2005 and formerly known as the Huffington Post. Since its initial launch, it has become one of the most widely visited news sources on the internet with 126 million monthly users looking for coverage on a variety of topics. The outlet has received praise for bold reporting and commitment to coverage of lesser-reported stories. However, like many other media organizations, HuffPost has come under closer scrutiny for allegations of bias in its political news coverage; in fact, 46% of Americans believe HuffPost is very to extremely biased. This article will seek to determine HuffPost’s bias and examine how this bias manifests in their reporting.
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. 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.
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.
Is HuffPost Politically Biased?
Generally speaking, HuffPost is considered to have a distinct liberal bias, resulting in a preference for perspectives and evidence that align with the values and belief systems of progressive individuals. This often leads to a subjective and narrow interpretation of policies, events, and other issues. In fact, HuffPost does not even try to conceal its bias and is rather forthcoming about it; one HuffPost writer even published an article entitled, “A Reporter’s Take on ‘Liberal Media Bias,’” downplaying the effects of biased reporting:
“Yes, the news is biased. Reporters have opinions, and quite often, a reporter’s opinion might creep into her story even if she doesn’t intend it to. But that doesn’t mean the news is wrong or invaluable simply because it is influenced by bias. … But even if a reporter does her due diligence, and tries to report a story honestly and fairly to the best of her ability, she’s still biased because human beings are biased by nature. “
“The real question is not a matter of whether our news is biased or not. It’s more about the degree to which reporters make an effort to present an educated, well-researched account of what’s going on. And as we know from our history books, while the facts are indisputable, they can look differently to different people.”
This article suggests that human nature does not allow people to avoid bias. While humans are certainly prone to it, dismissing the significance of bias in the news can be harmful. By asserting that facts can look different to different people, the author presupposes that truth is subjective, which dismisses the role and importance of factual reporting. Though the author states that biased reporting is not inherently wrong, on the contrary, biased news can be highly misleading and distort people’s perceptions of reality. And while reporters should surely present an educated and well-researched account of a news story, they should learn to separate personal opinions, values, and beliefs when they present those facts. They bear the responsibility of providing a truthful accounting of an event or policy and allowing the reader to make their own judgment.
In addition to this outright admission of bias by HuffPost in terms of its reporting, the company has also continuously favored stories that help its political narrative and avoided ones that might hurt it, while stories that may interest conservative audiences are glossed over or altogether ignored. To illustrate, at the time of writing, the top trending news stories on HuffPost’s homepage included articles criticizing Ron DeSantis, Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and the January 6th protestors while positively supporting topics on labor equity and the widespread availability of the abortion pill. Perhaps this is why Pew Research discovered that HuffPost is among the media organizations that Republicans do not trust.
Source: Pew Research
It makes sense, then, that Biasly has assigned HuffPost an AI Bias Score of -62%, or “Very Liberal” with an Analyst Score of -44%, or “Moderately Liberal” based on the factors above. HuffPost knows and plays to its audience undaunted by the risks and costs associated with media bias.
Analysis of Bias in Huffpost Online Articles
Now that you understand the main elements of bias in political reporting, let’s take a look at an example of these biases in action. We’ll review the following article: “Liz Cheney Slaps Down Trump’s Attempt To Redefine 2020 Election As ‘THE BIG LIE,’” which serves as a good representation of all the biases we have presented.
Beginning with the tone, it is clear from the writing in the opening paragraph how the author, Ryan Grenoble, feels about Donald Trump:
“His refusal to acknowledge that fact, buttressed by his ― and his enablers’ ― endless lying about it and baseless attempts to overturn it, culminated in the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and Trump’s subsequent second impeachment.”
Not only does Grenoble take a hard stance on the issue of the 2020 election before getting into any analysis, but he also paints a picture of Trump as a liar with a following of deadly and lawless people who enable him. This tone is meant to immediately evoke a sense of disdain toward Trump and the Republican Party so that they read the rest of the article through this particular lens. There are approximately 7 instances of negative tone toward Donald Trump throughout this article and 4 positive instances of positive tone when referencing Liz Cheney, similar to the one mentioned above.
Throughout this article, there is an obvious tendency to fixate on all the positive aspects of Liz Cheney’s character and all the negatives of Trump’s. The biased tendencies of this article leave no room for the nuances that exist with every issue even though each of these two individuals has both positive and negative personality traits.
In sum, the piece has two instances of negative tendency and one instance of positive tendency; the first instance of negative tendency occurs when Trump’s actions regarding the election are referred to as “endless lying about it and baseless attempts to overturn it.” This implies Trump intentionally mislead his supporters without a valid reason, which may be an unfair assessment. The second instance of negative tendency is when the article references Cheney as an outlier in the party:
“Cheney’s comment is noteworthy given her leadership role in the GOP and her sustained efforts to steer other Republicans away from Trump’s lie about the election results ― which have made her an outlier in the party.”
This implies Cheney has an unusual or unpopular position, which may not accurately reflect the views of the whole Republican Party. The positive tendency describes Cheney’s commitment to civility in politics, which portrays her as admirable and worthy of emulation.
HuffPost also tends to exhibit author bias, which is when the network’s reporters have their own biases, exhibited on their social media pages and elsewhere, and end up weaving them into their writing — whether consciously or not. These biases have an effect on the way the author analyzes a policy or event. In the case of HuffPost, there is a clear liberal author bias wherein their reporters praise progressive events and news while questioning, scrutinizing, and criticizing conservative ones.
When an author displays their personal biases in public, particularly on social media where internet histories last forever, it can have a major impact on their ability to write unbiased articles. For one, it can lead to a loss of public perception that the individual is capable of being objective or impartial, so readers may view their articles with mistrust and undermine his or her credibility. It may also lead readers to disregard the author’s articles in the future regardless of the factuality of the content.
Ryan Grenoble’s public image via social media is a disservice to his own credibility as a reporter. His profile is a stream of tweets and retweets of anti-Republican-themed posts and establishes that anything he writes will result in biased reporting.
Pissing your pants to own the libs https://t.co/ehZPrOIl3d
— Ryan Grenoble (@G_nobes) March 24, 2022
Grenoble’s emotionally charged diction in his article is highly prejudiced against Trump and in favor of Cheney, who is considered a reject of the Republican Party. For example, the words and phrases used to describe Cheney’s actions and statements against Trump and other Republicans include “civility,” “leadership,” “effective,” and “sustained efforts,” which stand in stark contrast to the words describing Trump and his base. Some include “endless lying,” “baseless attempts,” and “lashed out.”
With this article, Grenoble demonstrates clear bias with the headline, subheading, and featured video by framing the issue as having a right and a wrong position. The article title, ‘Liz Cheney Slaps Down Trump’s Attempt To Redefine 2020 Election As ‘THE BIG LIE,’” suggests Cheney is doing the right thing by taking action against Trump, and the subheading reinforces her position as the correct one. The video just beneath these headings also features a number of highly biased and negatively charged headlines about Trump and a CNN video clip shutting down any dissension from the other side of the political spectrum. These elements, being placed at the beginning of the article, are consistent with the article but work to influence the reader’s initial feelings of anger toward Trump and Republicans before they start reading.
While few media companies manage to avoid bias in their articles entirely, they should strive to do so as much as possible, as biased reporting tends to report only one side of an issue, impacting the public’s ability to make decisions and eroding trust in the press. HuffPost journalists should strive for factual reporting and objectivity, and online news articles are not the right means for imparting one’s opinion — though there is a proper time and place for that, which we’ll discuss in the next section.
Analysis of HuffPost Opinion Articles
In addition to reporting and investigative analysis, HuffPost is also known for its opinionated content and has a section dedicated to opinion pieces written by contributors, including journalists, experts, and everyday people. Opinion editorials are biased by nature, as they are meant to be a way for writers to express a viewpoint and persuade the reader about a particular issue.
As such, HuffPost’s opinion section tends to lean left and promote progressive viewpoints, with a focus on issues such as social justice, politics, and culture. The bias is evident at a glance, with headlines rife with nonfactual, subjective claims, such as:
- “All The Stupid Laws That Have Passed Instead Of An Assault Rifle Ban”
- “Sen. Tim Scott Wants To Sell Unity To The Party Of White Grievance. Good Luck With That”
- “The Clarence Thomas Scandal Is What’s Wrong With Our Democracy”
- “Can You Hear That Noise? It’s The Sound Of The GOP Falling From Grace”
This is why, as with any news source, it’s important to read critically and seek out multiple perspectives to form a well-rounded understanding of a topic or issue.
Who Owns HuffPost?
HuffPost was originally started as the Huffington Post by Arianna Huffington, Kenneth Lerer, and Jonah Peretti. The company was sold to AOL in 2011 for $315 million, and by 2015, AOL was acquired by Verizon Media of which HuffPost is now a subsidiary. Being owned by a large corporation, the organization’s editorial biases and decisions are subject to the influence of its parent company’s interests in addition to those of stakeholders and advertisers. This is important for readers to keep in mind as they give credence to HuffPost articles.
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.
HuffPost’s bias against conservative people and policies is evident in their article tone, diction, authorship, and more. It’s important to note, however, that we have only looked at one piece in this article, but these principles can be applied to evaluate any HuffPost article you read. It’s also important to have Biasly’s News Check to improve your news media literacy and understand the biases of all news organizations.