Is HuffPost Reliable?
HuffPost is a popular news and opinion site that millions have used as a source of information and analysis since its founding in 2005. It is considered to be the original online newspaper and has a large following of individuals from all age groups. The organization is known for being a trusted source of diverse perspectives outside of mainstream outlets, but given the rise of misinformation and the HuffPost’s tendency of liberal bias, questions of its reliability have been raised. According to Statista, 34% of Americans find the company “somewhat” to “very credible,” while 25% find it “not too credible” or “not at all credible” as of February 2022. This article will examine the primary measures of reliability and see how HuffPost fares.
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 HuffPost Fare In Its Reliability?
Political bias indicators can help readers understand the reliability level of a news source. Biasly rates articles on an accuracy scale ranging from 1 to 100, with 1 being not at all accurate and 100 being totally accurate. Determinations are made on the basis of credible sources, fact-based reasoning, credible external sources, and political biases. Biasly has rated HuffPost as 67% accurate, which could be interpreted as only somewhat reliable.
Biasly’s accuracy score is a representation of the average reliability of any given HuffPost article, although some will score higher — and some lower. For reference, HuffPost’s competitor, Politico, received an 89% reliability rating. In the sections to follow, we’ll show you examples of the reasons for HuffPost’s accuracy score and the measures of reliability that contribute to the rating.
HuffPost Accuracy and Reliability
HuffPost has been accused of transforming from a left-leaning site with some conservative presence into an antagonistic leftist organization that calls attention to “the latest outrage.” It has also faced criticism for republishing the work of other journalists and suppressing legitimate journalism. But is HuffPost as unreliable as rumors like these claim? In order to answer this question, we have to account for accuracy — the article’s level of factuality with regard to their claims. Two measures of factual accuracy in an article include selection and omission bias, which we will screen for below.
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’s website has an entire page dedicated to the accuracy and reliability of HuffPost articles with accuracy ratings assigned to a list of recent articles. There is certainly variability among their article scores with some very reliable and very unreliable outliers, but most fall within the 60% range, which is expected given Biasly’s overall score for this source. The variation in reliability is usually a result of changes in selection and omission bias, with the more politically biased articles getting lower accuracy ratings.
For example, “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Slashes Lauren Boebert For Call To End Government Benefits” received a lower-than-average accuracy score of 56% while “DHS Chief: U.S.-Mexico Border Is Closed, But Unaccompanied Minors Accepted” achieved a much higher-than-average accuracy score of 94% because it focused on neutral language, backing claims with credible sources, and sticking to the verifiable facts.
Analysis of Reliability in HuffPost Online Articles
Let’s dive a little deeper into the reasons behind the low accuracy and reliability rating for the first article mentioned above: “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Slashes Lauren Boebert For Call To End Government Benefits.”
To recap, we mentioned that unreliable articles are characterized by unreliable sources, unbacked claims, a lack of primary sources, and some opinionated language. This article is a far cry from unopinionated, taking an accusatory stance from the subheading: “The woman who has talked about her days on welfare NOW wants benefits to end.”
But one of the larger issues of the article’s reliability is its poor choice of links. HuffPost links back to itself a handful of times, after which it cites NPR, the Brookings Institution, and the Washington Post — all of which are known for having a liberal slant. In areas of the piece that had the potential for links to primary sources, HuffPost once again linked to its own takes on the primary source instead. For instance, it makes a reference to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) where Boebert called for an end to benefits, but the link goes to other HuffPost articles on CPAC instead of the original CPAC footage that would allow the reader to hear or read Boebert’s full comments in context.
One of the article’s factual issues lies in its skewed interpretation of Boebert’s tweet pertaining to her aforementioned comment:
I’m living the American dream. I came up from welfare, standing in line waiting for government cheese, to now running for Congress.
Let’s keep radical socialists out of government so that people can be empowered to lift themselves out of poverty, rather than wait on government!
— Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) September 16, 2020
The author prefaces this tweet with, “Ironically, Boebert has talked about her own days on welfare, which eventually led her to ‘living the American dream.’ Now she’s ready to turn off aid to others.”
The problem with this interpretation is that, unlike the author implies, Boebert did not state anywhere in her tweet that government welfare is the factor that led her to live the American dream. On the contrary, the second line of her tweet seems to imply that she credits her own hard work for lifting herself out of poverty and into the congressional race — and that others should be empowered to do the same. The article’s interpretation could be correct, but without a clarifying statement from Boebert to use as a primary source, the piece may be misleading in its interpretation.
What’s more, the author’s suggestion that welfare programs lift people out of poverty is flawed; welfare spending now comprises $1 trillion of annual government spending, yet poverty rates have remained stagnant. In short, the article helps the HuffPost live up to its reputation of stirring the pot by citing the latest outrage for the progressive base rather than informing readers.
Furthermore, we can see selection bias in the author’s decision to exclusively include inflammatory tweets produced in reaction to Boebert’s words instead of an analysis of why Boebert may feel the way she does about government benefits. We can also see omission bias in the exclusion of facts surrounding:
- Government welfare
- Statistics about how welfare may harm or help vulnerable populations
- Any other information that may give validity to the Boebert criticism
Any opinions from the other side of the political spectrum appear to have been omitted. As a liberal news source, HuffPost has the incentive to continue engaging in selection and omission bias by publishing pieces that support left-leaning ideals, even if it sacrifices its own reliability in doing so.
Analysis of Reliability in HuffPost Opinion Pieces
In addition to its factual reporting and investigative analysis, HuffPost is also known for its opinionated content, as it has a section dedicated to opinion pieces written by contributors, including journalists, experts, and everyday people. Opinion pieces are designed to be an outlet for people who want to put forth a personal viewpoint and convince readers of their side of an issue. Due to their subjective nature, these articles are often less reliable but can often be worth reading for the sake of broadening one’s understanding of various viewpoints across the political spectrum.
One of the reliability issues with HuffPost opinions is the authors’ propensity to knowingly spread false information. For example, “Conservatives Aren’t Really Concerned About The Supreme Court Nominee’s Qualifications” makes the claim that Republicans opposed the judicial nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson because she is a black woman, which disregards all the legitimate concerns they have voiced.
Republicans opposed the nomination before her name or anyone else’s was ever under consideration because President Biden announced that he would be appointing a black woman to the bench — immediately discounting large swaths of qualified candidates. Republicans also oppose Jackson’s political activism in the Supreme Court that would interfere with its objectivity, which Jackson exhibited when she refused to define a woman during her confirmation hearing.
Furthermore, the article states:
“Conservatism, at least in the United States, is repulsed by a multiracial democracy and Black equality. So the answer is simple. They are morally opposed to the thought of a Black woman in power.”
Such claims are out of touch with the reality of the GOP in recent years, which not only elected Winsome Sears in 2021 (a woman of color) but also supported a record number of black Republicans as candidates for Congress in 2022. Furthermore, Gallup polls have discovered that white Southerners, who comprise a good portion of the Republican base, said that “the race of a candidate… would make no difference” in their vote.
All of this one-sidedness illustrates why it’s so important to read all news through a critical lens and seek out multiple perspectives to form a well-rounded understanding of a topic or issue.
So Is HuffPost Reliable?
The ultimate answer to this question depends on the article. HuffPost has a tendency to produce moderately unreliable articles, but this is not true for every piece it publishes. With Biasly’s News Check Chrome extension, you can quickly analyze an article’s bias and reliability scores. Download it today so you can start getting more familiar with the determinants of accuracy and reliability and become a more informed consumer of the news for the benefit of yourself and others.