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Is the Los Angeles Times Reliable?

By · Jan 12, 2024 · 7 min read

Is the Los Angeles Times Reliable?

The Los Angeles Times is the largest newspaper on the United States West Coast, with its website receiving 40 million monthly visits. It was first published in 1881 at the direction of Nathan Cole Jr. and Thomas Gardiner; however, in 2018 Nant Capital LLC purchased the Los Angeles Times for ~$500 million. Impressively, the LA Times has won 51 Pulitzer Prizes, indicating they have a reputation for quality journalism.

Even though the LA Times appears reliable, it has received criticism of bias from both sides of the political spectrum. So, is the LA Times reliable or not? At Biasly, we endeavor to evaluate the accuracy and dependability of all media outlets. Let us investigate the reliability and accuracy of the LA Times.

Does Reliability Matter

Reliability, in general, refers to how trustworthy or accurate information, or in this case, a news source is. Considering 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. So how exactly can we gauge the reliability of a news source?

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 the LA Times Fare in its Reliability

The political bias index developed by Biasly objectively assesses news organizations’ dependability. Biasly’s reliability rating for the LA Times has an Analyst Rating of 94% reliability on our meter, which suggests readers can trust almost all of the LA Times content online, and a Computer Reliability Rating of 55%, which indicates a Fair Rating, or Grade C, on its source and quotes quality. However, since this is an average, certain articles could be more or less trustworthy. Our findings are in line with those of other third-party raters who indicate the LA Times is highly factual.

Next, we will analyze the supporting data for these ratings and discuss what to watch out for while searching for trustworthy sources.

LA Times Accuracy and Reliability  

The credibility of news organizations can be significantly impacted by bias and political orientation. Like many other media organizations, the LA Times, on occasion, has been accused of prioritizing liberal causes. We can evaluate the integrity of the LA Times’s news stories to 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 news 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 and their 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 LA Times news stories. As previously stated, according to the reports Biasly’s analysts have assessed, the LA Times is generally 94% reliable. However, this score can vary from article to article, and the most extreme variations in dependability are caused by bias, notably, omission and selection bias. Consider American Military News, which has a moderately conservative bias and is 79% reliable according to Biasly. For example, they have one article that is 98% reliable titled, “US 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 such, articles advertised as opinion pieces are, generally, less reliable than ones that are not.

For example, the LA Times article “Biden signs historic $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill” is rated somewhat liberal but is close to the center. Concerning selection and omission bias, the author does a good job of utilizing sources from both sides of the political aisle. Quotes from Biden, Trump, Pelosi, and McConnel are featured, providing a well-rounded perspective on the infrastructure bill. To exemplify, Trump states that:

“Republican lawmakers who crossed the aisle are greatly jeopardizing their chances of winning reelection”, while Biden is quoted stating that “Democrats and Republicans can come together and deliver results”.

Overall, this article portrays a centrist stance on the bipartisan infrastructure bill. The author uses a variety of sources without attempting to lead the reader to a particular conclusion. Furthermore, the author maintains a matter-of-fact tone and refrains from injecting her opinion into the article. Therefore, this article can be considered highly reliable.

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

Analysis of Reliability in LA Times Opinion Pieces

Opinion-style journalism allows reporters to express their own beliefs, even though excessive opinion is, generally, something to avoid when producing a reporting article. Even though opinion pieces are less trustworthy because of their subjective nature, they can still be worthwhile to read in order to expand one’s understanding of various political viewpoints.

The LA Times clearly labels opinion pieces, “Opinion: name of the article”, to not confuse readers about what kind of article they are reading. Furthermore, they offer a diverse selection of opinion pieces, some with a conservative lean and some with a liberal lean. To exemplify, two recent articles published on their website are, “Editorial: Could Jim Jordan do anything other than tear the government apart”, and “Opinion: A federal judge’s gag order against Trump may be satisfying. But it isn’t constitutional”. The articles come from opposite sides of the political spectrum, which is important for the diversity of thought within the LA Times opinion section.

Quality of Sources and Facts Used

The LA Times can be good at using reliable sources from both sides of the ideological divide and citing facts as evidence; however, the quality of journalism varies from article to article. For example, in the article “Editorial: Biden should balance support for Israel with pushing for peace in a volatile region”, the author, the Times editorial board, only used six quotes. Of the six, three are short and three are medium length. Furthermore, the quotes are all from the same source, Joe Biden.

Joe Biden is a direct source and therefore higher quality; however, using just one source to write an article is poor. Even though the author wants more humanitarian aid to flow into the Gaza Strip, an Israeli Defense Force perspective on why they do not want this would make the article more balanced. If the author had employed more sources with a broader range of perspectives the article would be more credible. It is difficult to plot foreign affairs onto the liberal-conservative spectrum; however, liberals are generally more empathetic to the plight of the Palestinians, so the article has a slight liberal bias.

In the article above, “Opinion: A federal judge’s gag order against Trump may be satisfying. But it isn’t constitutional”, the author, Erwin Chemerinsky, employs no quotes but uses three prior court cases to make his point. The article strongly defends free speech while declining to investigate the historic precedent of gag orders. The article is strongly opinionated with a lack of quote diversity; however, this is normal for opinion pieces, so the article is fine.

Selection and Omission Bias

In another article, by the Times Editorial Board, the authors investigate the recent election of Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana to the role of Speaker of the House. The article, “Editorial: House Republicans just elected an election denier as speaker. American democracy is in trouble”, delves into Rep. Johnson’s past and for all practical purposes serves as opposition research. The authors only utilize two quotes in the article, one from Trump and one from Rep. Matt Gaetz. The authors use the quotes to disparage Rep. Johnson by aligning him with the two very conservative figures.

The article exhibits a strong selection/omission bias, leaning heavily against the GOP and framing the party negatively. Key quotes supporting this analysis include:

“House Republicans on Wednesday unanimously elected as speaker a man who actively tried to overturn the 2020 presidential election results and would like to lock up people who get an abortion or provide gender-affirming care to minors,” and “If there was any hope that the GOP would steer toward sanity and distance itself from the Trump sideshow, that hope is gone.”

These statements demonstrate a clear editorial slant, portraying the GOP in extreme terms without providing balanced perspectives or acknowledging any positive aspects or diverse opinions within the party. The language used, such as “extremists who have taken control of the Republican Party” and the suggestion that the 2024 election might be “stolen” with GOP assistance, further cements the article’s strong bias. The omission of counterarguments or more moderate GOP viewpoints contributes to a heavily skewed narrative against the Republican Party.

In the article discussed earlier, “Editorial: Biden should balance support for Israel with pushing for peace in a volatile region”, the author’s quotes exclusively come from Joe Biden. While he is a reliable source, quote diversity gives articles more credibility, so, the article would be more reliable if the authors included other sources, so that the readers could evaluate sources on both sides of the story.

In opinion pieces, issues with factuality, sources, selection, and omission are frequently present. So far, the articles we have covered present strong opinionated arguments – with varying degrees of background information and context that could contradict the author’s stance.

Importantly, all op-ed articles are clearly labeled ‘Opinion’ or ‘Editorial’ so the readers know what they are about to digest. As a news organization with a slight liberal slant, the Los Angeles Times has a minor incentive to continue appealing to Liberal viewpoints in order to maintain the interest of its Liberal viewership base. To be fair, this is balanced by the damage that could be done to their esteemed journalistic reputation if they do so. Now that we’ve discussed typical trustworthiness indications, you may stay current by keeping yourself informed on the most accurate news.

So is the Los Angeles Times Reliable?

Finally, it can be argued that the Los Angeles Times is a highly reliable news source with a reputation for journalistic integrity. Their opinion pieces tend to display a liberal bias;  however, there is diversity of thought and, importantly, the opinion pieces are clearly labeled.

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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