Founded in 1851 by Paul Julius Reuter, to deliver news quickly and accurately across the globe, Reuters has grown into one of the world’s leading news organizations. Reuters is committed to providing high-quality journalism mostly free from bias. Reuters has a long history of breaking major news stories and providing in-depth coverage of important events.
As a leading purveyor of news with a reputation for quality journalism, the question of whether Reuters is biased demands close examination. A national poll conducted in the winter of 2019 for Columbia Journalism Review found that Republicans were far more likely to distrust Reuters reporting compared with Democrats.
In this article, we will analyze Reuter’s news coverage to determine if there is any perceptible political bias in their reporting. Through our analysis, we hope to provide a comprehensive answer to whether Reuters 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 Reuters Politically Biased?
Reuters has faced criticism from liberals, independents, and conservatives alike for being biased. In January 2023, Ross Clark, the author of a new book on climate change, Not Zero accused Reuters and other media outlets of joining hands with Covering Climate Now (CCN). According to Clark, CCN seeks to stamp out any opposing views on climate change by suggesting that reporting on hurricanes automatically be linked with phrases like “this comes at a time when human-induced climate change is consistently making storms more intense”, while the data behind the science remains in dispute. CCN says it offers “tips to help report all angles of the climate story”. CCN was co-founded by the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation, both of which are supportive of a progressive agenda.
Reuters responded by quoting, “Reuters is deeply committed to covering climate change and its impact on our planet with accuracy, independence, and integrity, in keeping with the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.”
Biasly’s A.I. Bias Score for Reuters sits at -4% for being “Center,” and it has a Policy Leaning score of -7%, which means it provides political coverage from an American left-center to center perspective. Neutral/moderate stances on hot-button political issues with reports covering both sides of an issue contribute to this rating.
Biasly’s scores closely align with determinations by other third-party bias research agencies. MBFC (Media Bias/Fact Check) ranked Reuters Least Biased based on objective reporting and Very High for factual reporting due to proper sourcing of information with minimal bias and a clean fact check record.
Readers like you are more likely to have a strong opinion on Reuters based on your political leaning because of their tendency to promote neutral/moderate stances and people as represented by Biasly’s “Center” rating. In the remainder of this article, we’ll talk about ways to identify this bias so you can separate the opinions from the facts and become a more informed consumer of news.
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 Reuters Online Articles
According to Similarweb, reuters.com’s audience is 66.9% male and 33.1% female. The largest age group of visitors is 25 – 34-year-olds (desktop traffic). In 2020, for the fourth consecutive year, Ipsos Affluent Europe affirmed Reuters as #1 for monthly digital reach, reaching 6,947,000 monthly digital consumers (13.1% of all affluent Europeans), ahead of BBC (6,914,000), CNN (6,535,000) and The New York Times (6,466,000).
Reuters was also #1 for monthly digital reach for a wide range of key target audiences including manager/senior executive+ (23.1%), work in finance (20.4%), financial advisors (22.7%), own 2+ cars in household (13%), frequent traders defined by 11+ trades in last 12 months (20.5%), pay extra for quality (13.6%). Based on this, we can see that Reuters’ audience tends to be highly educated, and affluent. It is important to note that in the United States, most Americans get news from the wire services like Reuters through another news outlet that carries their syndicated content.
Given its readership base, is Reuters really biased? We’ll look at some of their articles in more detail below to identify the signs.
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 examine is,“Police recount going to ‘hell and back’ in Capitol riot testimony.” Biasly has rated this article as having an Analyst Bias score of -19 and an author bias score of – 10. Part of the reason for this rating is that, even though the authors try to maintain neutrality, the tone of the article is one of frustration.
While the headline is informative to the content of the article, the tone is made clear from the title with the use of quotation marks around the phrase ‘attempted coup’ which may show a slight liberal bias to the reader. The following three-point summary below the title is unequivocal about condemning President Trump and the Republican party:
- “Panel formed after Republicans blocked independent probe”
- “Officers recall rioters acting on Trump’s behalf”
- “Trump “helped create this monstrosity,” officer says”
- “It was a dramatic first hearing for a Democratic-led House of Representatives committee formed despite opposition by Trump’s fellow Republicans to investigate the worst violence at the Capitol since the British invasion in the War of 1812.”
The authors’ tone may show a slight liberal bias, though they do a good job of discussing this highly sensitive and politically incendiary event in as neutral of a way as possible.
Although the diction of the article is not necessarily extreme, most of the article is direct quotes from the capitol police explaining the attack. Since the language is visceral in nature, this may indicate a liberal bias, though this is not overt or consistent. “I feel like I went to hell and back to protect the people in this room,” said District of Columbia police officer Michael Fanone, referring to lawmakers. “The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful,” Fanone added, slamming his hand onto the witness table.” There are many quotes included from the Capitol police officers, as shown above, which contain more extreme language including “terrorists”, “kill him with his own gun”, “a medieval battlefield”, as they describe what they experienced on Jan 6th. Some of these quotes are critical of the Republican senators trying to downplay the events of that day and may show a more liberal bias. This is quite a change for Reuters which went through a spell of notoriety in 2001 for eschewing the use of the word ‘terrorists’ to describe those who pulled off the September 11 terrorist attacks on America.
This authors’ online presence is very limited. One had Twitter, but no tweets on their page. The other is active on Twitter, and most of the tweets related to their work as lead reporter for Reuters covering the U.S. Justice Department out of Washington, D.C. There was no real bias that I could find.
To sum it up, the authors strive for objectivity for the most part, but we can see hints of support for one side. All of this suggests that, while some elements of this article were liberal, the article was found to be leaning center, which aligns with our analysis of Reuters as a company with a tendency to lean center in its biases.
Even though this article falls on the center, 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, and omission bias — in any article you come across.
To demonstrate, here’s an article that demonstrates little to no bias throughout and also comes from Reuters: “U.S. consumer confidence at 17-month high; business spending on equipment strong.” Biasly’s A.I. rating is “Center,” as the language throughout is very cut-and-dry, objectively stating the facts of the matter and avoiding emotionally loaded language that influences the reader’s opinion.
“Business spending on equipment has recorded three straight quarters of double-digit growth. Another solid quarter of growth is expected when the government publishes its advance estimate of GDP growth for the second quarter on Thursday.”
As we can see from the statement above, this article is very straightforward. The author’s tone is mostly neutral. It does seem to speak favorably about the economic growth in the wake of the pandemic which may show a slight conservative bias, but overall the article is very neutral.
The author has no real tendency bias. They discuss fluctuations in the market economy, though they do not ascribe these to any one policy or party. No political agenda is pushed in this article and the author does not favor either side.
“Manufacturing and housing have enjoyed strong growth during the pandemic. Soaring home prices are, however, threatening to slow the housing market momentum.”
The great majority of the language used in this article is neutral, though the author has some instances where they use stronger language to describe fluctuations in the market, as shown above. This may show a slight conservative bias, though it is not consistent and instances are infrequent.
The author covers business and finance issues for Reuters. They did not have social media and their online presence is limited. The author does not report on political issues, so it made their political leanings hard to discern. I could find no real political bias in their reporting or in the limited online information I was able to find on them.
“Surging house price inflation was highlighted by a fourth report showing the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) house price index rose a record 18.0% in May from a year ago after vaulting 15.8% in the 12 months through April.”
The author covers a wide variety of economic issues, providing helpful and unbiased statistics with each. The article is not very centered on one issue but there is no real bias in what the author chose to include.
“Orders for durable goods, or items ranging from toasters to aircraft that are meant to last three years or more, advanced 0.8% in June after rebounding 3.2% in May. They were held back by weak orders for motor vehicles and parts, which slipped 0.3%.”
This article contains a lot of helpful statistics and facts, all of which come from reliable sources which the author cites. There is no real bias in the way the author presents the information.
These articles are only a small representation of all of Reuters content, but they indicate that the outlet is often characterized by a great deal of opinion — further underscoring the importance of knowing how to distinguish subjective writing from genuine reporting.
Who Owns Reuters?
Reuters is owned by Thomson Reuters Corporation. Thomson Reuters is a publicly traded company that provides news, information, and analytics to businesses, governments, and individuals. The company was formed in 2008 by the merger of Thomson Corporation and Reuters Group plc. Thomson Reuters has a market capitalization of approximately $38 billion and employs approximately 70,000 people worldwide. The company’s headquarters are located in Toronto, Canada.
The ownership of Reuters is not active in politics. The company’s board of directors are not affiliated with any political party or organization. Reuters was ranked as the second most trustworthy news brand in the world, according to the GlobalWebIndex 2019 News Consumption Report.
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.
Even though Biasly gave Reuters a -4% bias score, remember that bias varies by article, and that Reuters does not exclusively publish moderate thought pieces. In fact, it is known to have produced some liberal and conservative-leaning articles before. Additionally, some article types will inherently 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.