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Is Townhall Reliable?

By · Mar 26, 2024 · 7 min read

Is Townhall Reliable?

Townhall has long prided itself on being the leading conservative website but is it a reliable new source? Third-party media ratings have shown Townhall contributors do not always adhere to journalistic integrity standards.

Given Townhall’s reputation as the leading news source in conservative circles with an emphasis on presenting information from a right-wing perspective, its reliability deserves a closer look. At Biasly, we endeavor to evaluate the accuracy and dependability of all media outlets. Let us investigate the reliability and accuracy of Townhall.

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 Townhall Fare in its Reliability

The political reliability index developed by Biasly objectively assesses news organizations’ accuracy and trustworthiness. Townhall’s overall Reliability Score has been rated as ‘Fair’ by Biasly. This rating is a weighted average of two distinct scores: the Fact Analysis Score and the Source Analysis Score, each evaluating separate components of Buzzfeed’s Reliability. When computing the Average Reliability of the article the Fact Analysis score is more heavily weighted. These ratings are as follows in the next two paragraphs:

Townhall’s Fact Analysis Score is ‘Fair,’ which suggests readers can trust some of Townhall’s content online. The Fact Analysis score focuses more on the accuracy of claims, facts, and sources presented in the article and any hints of selection and omission bias, which we will discuss further in the article.

Townhall’s Source Analysis Reliability Score is ‘Fair,’ which suggests readers can trust some of the sources, links, and quotes provided by the news source. This score, which is based on A.I., focuses on assessing the quality of sources and quotes used including their number, lengths, uniqueness, and diversity.

However, since these scores are based on percentages and averages, individual articles could be more or less trustworthy depending on the context, author, and other factors. Our findings show Townhall’s content is semi-reliable due to infrequent and insufficient use of credible sources and data to back their contributors’ claims. At times, their content may promote conspiracies and lies to push their political agendas.

Let us analyze the supporting data for these rankings and discuss what to watch out for while searching for trustworthy news sources.

Townhall Accuracy and Reliability

The credibility of news organizations is significantly impacted by bias and political orientation. Townhall is similar to other conservative news sources, like Hot Air and RedState, in that they’re openly conservative. They do not hide the fact that they prioritize the conservative agenda above anything else. We can evaluate the integrity of Townhall’s news stories and 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 assess 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 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 Townhall news stories. As we previously stated, according to the reports analytics have assessed, Buzzfeed is generally 84% 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.

For example, let’s look at a news source on the other side of the aisle. The Atlantic has an A.I. and Analyst bias rating of “Moderately Liberal” with an overall reliability rating of “Fair.” One article, “What the Ohio Special Election Actually Means,” has a “Moderately Liberal” Bias Score and a “Fair” Reliability Score. Another article, “Jon Gruden Just Put It in Writing,” has a “Very Liberal” Bias Score with a significantly poorer Reliability Score. Overall, stories that display political leanings are less reliable than neutral ones.

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

Analysis of Reliability in Townhall 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.

Townhall’s contributors put a lot of their opinions and biases into their articles, which undermines the reliability of its content. Their biases and prioritization of a political agenda over factual reporting frequently leads them to selectively omit critical information and cite other unreliable sources. Townhall sometimes presents an article that may look neutral at first glance but has reliability errors on the inside. For example, the article, “House Democrat Introduces Bill to Ban Unvaccinated Americans from Flights,” initially appears to be neutral but the author made notable errors when citing sources. The article is about a bill Democratic congressman Ritchie Torres supports but the author never quoted anything in the bill. Nothing in the bill explicitly mandates banning travelers from flying if they did not receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Instead, the author put his spin on the bill to whip the audience against the proposed legislation.

Quality of Sources and Facts Used

Townhall may occasionally cite credible and nonpartisan sources, but they are typically one-sided and exclude critical information from their work. A good example of this is in the article titled, “Flashback: Biden’s Secretary of Defense Misled Obama on ‘Jayvee’ ISIS Danger as CENTCOM Commander,” by Spencer Brown. The list of sources consists of:

  • Two of Spencer Brown’s work on Townhall (Conservative-leaning)
  • Two articles from The Atlantic (Liberal-leaning).
  • 2016 congressional report on the United States Central Command handling of ISIS (Nonpartisan).

The quality of sources in this article is mixed. As we’ve already analyzed, Biasly has rated Townhall as a questionable news source with significant journalism flaws. The fact that the author would cite articles of sources that are openly one-sided speaks to how committed they are to their political agenda. On the other hand, The Atlantic is a widely respected mainstream media outlet, with good reliability scores despite a Moderately Liberal bias. The Atlantic articles and the congressional report partially explain why Biasly rated Townhall’s reliability as fair instead of poor. They will occasionally use credible sources but not sufficiently enough to earn the reputation of a credible news organization.

Spencer Brown used 8 quotes, with 3 short and 5 long. The author frequently used the quotes to paint the Biden Administration in a negative light, such as in the example below.

“All this being known, Biden still picked Austin to lead the Pentagon. In his op-ed announcing his pick for Secretary of Defense, Biden said Austin ‘got the job done’ in Iraq against ISIS — a rather bold characterization of the situation that unfolded under his watch at CENTCOM — adding Austin ‘is the person we need in this moment.’

The last time Austin got a ‘job done,’ ISIS quickly established a tyrannical caliphate that beheaded, enslaved, and burned alive anyone who resisted.”

Selection and Omission Bias

Townhall also tends to cite its other articles instead of more neutral sources. For example, the article, “Chip Roy Hits Homeland Security Dems Hard for Ignoring Border Crisis,” has five hyperlinks that lead readers to other Townhall articles or pieces their contributors wrote. The example below has 4 hyperlinks. Townhall frequently citing their other work encourages readers to stay within its ecosystem and not rely on other sources for information.

“Julio has reported on many of these catastrophic happenings at the border, having seen many of it firsthand or at least speaking with those on the ground who have.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas during a Thursday press conference in Brownsville, Texas, revealed that there were 212,672 apprehensions at the border in July. This record high was an increase from June’s numbers.

As Townhall has covered, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) will be introducing impeachment articles against Mayorkas in the coming weeks to do with his failure at handling the border crisis.

Rep. Roy has also spoken at length about the crisis at the border, particularly when it comes to the hypocrisy of  having mask mandates in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

The author, Rebecca Downs, does not provide any sources that present the Democratic perspective on the U.S./Mexican border crisis and mask mandate. Instead, she only states that Democrats are criticizing Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis over a separate issue.

“House Democrats with the Homeland Security Committee are in the committee of jurisdiction to handle the border crisis, at least they’re supposed to be. Instead, they’re taking to attacking Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) over social media.”

The issue House Homeland Security Committee Democrats’ X (formerly Twitter) account criticized DeSantis for, which Downs did not mention, was the governor’s handling of COVID-19 in Florida. By omitting contradictory points of view, the author reduces the reliability of their article, making stories like these sound like opinion pieces.

In opinion pieces, issues with factuality, sources, selection, and omission are frequently present. The articles we’ve covered so far are mostly biased and exclude adequate relevant background. As a news organization with a large conservative audience, Townhall has an enormous incentive to continue appealing to conservative viewpoints to maintain the interests of its sizable base. But now that we’ve enumerated typical trustworthiness indications, you may stay current by keeping yourself informed on the most accurate news.

So Is Townhall Reliable?

In summary, Townhall is a semi-reliable news source with multiple holes when it comes to journalistic integrity. 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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