In the realm of media outlets, assessing reliability is crucial to making informed decisions about the news we consume. The Washington Free Beacon is a regular source of information in the realm of conservative journalism and consistently distributes reporting on the current state of politics, but questions about its dependability and accuracy arise. While highly ideological news sources are not necessarily unreliable, the degree of reliability held by such a stubbornly ideological organization comes into question. At Biasly, we strive to evaluate the credibility of all media organizations, so let’s delve into the reliability and accuracy of The Washington Free Beacon.
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 The Washington Free Beacon Fare in its Reliability?
The political bias index developed by Biasly objectively assessed news organizations’ dependability. The Washington Free Beacon has a rating of 55% reliability by Biasly’s AI meter, and a rating of 59% reliability by Biasly analyst ratings, which suggests readers should be wary and vigilant of the contents of articles that the Washington Free Beacon publishes online. This means certain articles could be more or less trustworthy. However, with a 55% reliability rating, readers should be aware and skeptical of the manner in which facts are presented within Free Beacon articles. This is due to the nature of the rating, as 55% denote that articles published by the Washington Free Beacon are only reliable about half of the time. Our findings are in line with those of other third-party raters which often state that the degree of factual reporting at the Washington Free Beacon is an average or medium credibility rating.
Let us analyze the supporting data for these rankings and discuss what to watch out for while searching for trustworthy news sources.
The Washington Free Beacon’s Accuracy and Reliability
The Washington Free Beacon’s reputation can be influenced by potential biases and political leanings. Some critics have accused the outlet of favoring conservative ideologies over objective reporting. To ascertain the integrity of The Washington Free Beacon’s news stories, we must evaluate how well the publication supports its assertions with evidence and whether it exhibits selection and omission biases.
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 Free Beacon stories. As we previously stated, according to the reports analytics have assessed, Free Beacon is generally 55% 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 or bias are often less reliable than neutral ones, but not always.
For instance, a Washington Free Beacon article titled “Hunter Biden Associate Testified That Hunter Sold More Than ‘Illusion of Access”’ is rated at 68% Very Conservative, yet it yields a reliability rating of Excellent on Biasly’s A.I. News Check. The author of this article, Ben Wilson, contributes to the reliability of this article by using credible sources, including opposing viewpoints, quotes, and information consistent with the current state of the Hunter Biden affair. On the other hand, Biasly’s 55% Reliability rating for the Washington Free Beacon implies inconsistencies in the website’s reliability. This can be seen if we examine another article, titled “Iran Claims To Bust US-Backed Network Fostering Anti-Regime Riots.” Biasly A.I. News Check gives this article a bias rating of +86% Very Conservative, but also yields a Reliability Rating of Fair, as opposed to Excellent. This decrease in reliability can be attributed to the author’s failure to adequately employ opposing viewpoints or unique sources within his article. The diversity in bias and reliability ratings between two articles from the same website simply showcases the utility of being able to determine reliability, in all of its varying degrees, when one is consuming news.
Analysis of Reliability in Free Beacon 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.
The Washington Free Beacon’s opinions have faced scrutiny in the past for promoting conservative ideologies and individuals, both through subtext and explicitly. The outlet has been involved in controversies, with accusations of low credibility in certain instances. For example, in an article from The Washington Post, titled “Washington Free Beacon reported ‘an unknown GOP client’ funded Fusion GPS. It was the Beacon.” Author Callum Borchers details the Free Beacon’s claims that they had solicited third parties to collect objective information and research on certain politicians, when in fact, they had been using biased research that the Free Beacon team members had collected themselves. In instances such as these, it is no surprise the Free Beacon and its factual reliabilities have come into question.
In an example of this potential unreliability in a Washington Free Beacon Article titled “The Media’s Weirdest Pride Coverage of 2023”, the author describes the coverage of certain Republican politicians’, such as Ron DeSantis, oppositions to pride as being that “there was plenty of coverage of the media’s favorite villains”. Even if there is possibly some truth to this, there could also be an overgeneralization on the part of the author, as he implies that the “media” as a whole regards figures such as Ron DeSantis and their distaste for the LGBTQ+ community as “villainous”, which is an extension of the conservative ideological stance that the general media antagonizes conservatives.
Quality of Sources and Facts Used
The Washington Free Beacon, like any reputable news organization, strives to use reliable sources and cite facts as evidence. However, not all articles may maintain the same level of quality, and a sizable amount have been found to limit viewpoints that conflict with certain conservative ideologies. For instance, in an article authored by Free Beacon journalist Drew Holden, titled “Drew’s Receipts: The Media Play Defense for Biden—With One Bombshell Exception,” we observe an inclusion of both conservative and liberal-leaning sources, although the sources differ in quality. The article yields a Reliability Score of Excellent through digital evaluations by Biasly’s AI News Check. Holden included 14 quotes from 12 sources, seven of which were tweets, the remaining seven coming directly from the news article, including one longform quote.
The author’s 12 sources for the article are as follows:
- Chris Hayes, commentator at MSNBC
- NBC News
- The Associated Press
- John Hasson, political commentator on Twitter
- The Washington Post
- Tom Elliot, journalist at The Federalist
- The New York Post
- RNC Research
- The New York Times
- Greg Price, journalist at Newsweek
The twelve sources cited included representatives from both conservative and liberal backgrounds, but the overwhelming majority of the sources lean to the left, acting as a target for the author, as well as the conservative sources provided. All of the conservative sources included are quoted tweets, which exhibit amore outspoken and opinionated rhetoric than the quotes from reputable news sources, while quotes from the liberal establishments are more cherry-picked by the author to poke fun at the inadequacies of the Biden Administration. While the article was accurate overall, some vital aspects were omitted, leading to a slight reduction in its reliability.
Selection and Omission Bias
A critical aspect of assessing reliability is detecting selection and omission biases. In a recent article titled “FACT CHECK: Joe Biden Said Republicans Are ‘Banning Books’ Like ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, the Washington Free Beacon tended to focus on viewpoints from conservative leaders while limiting the inclusion of opinions from liberal counterparts, beyond taking the opportunity to ridicule. This type of bias can influence the reader’s perception and diminish the overall reliability of the article, as it becomes one-sided indicating selection and omission bias.
In another piece titled “Biden To Cancel Trump’s Oil Drilling Leases in Alaska,” the authors omitted opposing views from the Democratic party, and included only one quote from a Republican representative, presenting the issue from only one perspective. This omission undermines the article’s credibility and makes it appear more like an opinion piece than a balanced report.
Is The Washington Free Beacon Reliable?
In conclusion, The Washington Free Beacon can be considered a generally reliable news source, but its reputation for journalistic integrity can fluctuate based on individual articles. As with any media outlet, it is essential to remain vigilant and critically assess the accuracy and dependability of the information presented. By staying informed and utilizing tools like Biasly’s News Bias Checker, readers can make well-informed decisions about the news they consume, ensuring access to the most accurate and reliable information.