Newsmax is a fairly large news media company with a website, news magazine, and cable TV channel with an average of around 25 million website views monthly. Newsmax has grown rapidly over the last few years, especially in the wake of the 2020 Presidential Election. However, Newsmax is also known for its conservative and right-wing political bias and does not make any attempt to conceal its status as a conservative news media platform. With its biases well established, how reliable is Newsmax’s reporting?
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 Newsmax Fare with its Reliability?
Using Biasly’s bias indicator, we gave Newsmax a reliability rating of 72%. In comparison, One America News, a smaller company with a similarly conservative reputation scored 71% while Fox News, Newsmax’s intended competition, has an 82% reliability score. While Newsmax intends to compete with Fox News from the Right, most Newsmax viewers also use Fox News for their political news.
From these scores, we can see that Newsmax is generally about as reliable as the smaller OAN but less reliable than the massive Fox News. But what do these scores actually mean? To answer that we need to gain a better understanding of Newsmax’s political biases and how they impact reliability.
Source: Pew Research
Newsmax’s Accuracy and Reliability
Despite its massive growth over the last few years, Newsmax has often been criticized for its right-wing bias and questionable accuracy. While we know that Newsmax carries some hefty conservative bias, how does this bias impact the accuracy of their reporting? To find out, we will examine a few Newsmax articles to determine their reliability.
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 accuracy rating system is based on a simple percentage scale with 1 percent being the least accurate and 100 being the most accurate. These ratings are determined by counting the number of credible sources used by that publication on average. Newsmax’s score, based on articles rated on Biasly, comes out to 72%.
In general, articles with more bias score lower on the accuracy scale while less biased articles score higher. The reliability of Newsmax’s rated articles tends to vary wildly with some scores as low as 38% reliable and others as high as 79% reliable. These scores seem to even out to make Newsmax’s overall score 72%. Interestingly, the less reliable articles have significantly higher bias scores while those which are more reliable tend to have lower bias scores. These massive differences in reliability between different articles might be explained by selection and omission biases utilized in each particular article.
As an example, the Newsmax article “Brandon Judd to Newsmax TV: Biden ‘Completing the Smuggling Cycle’,” has an analyst bias score of 63% conservative and an author bias score of 57% conservative, and an accuracy score of only 38% reliable. The article cites a statement by National Border Patrol Council President, Brandon Judd, on Newsmax TV as its main source. While Judd might be a primary source on issues on the U.S.-Mexico border as a member of the Border Patrol, he is also undeniably conservatively biased as evidenced by his appearance at a National Conservatism conference in 2021. Judd also makes the claim that,
“The Biden administration, by releasing these children, they have reintroduced what we call the catch and release magnet … That is what draws so many people to cross our borders illegally. They’ve created this revolving door where people come into the United States; they violate our laws; they get released pending a [Notice to Appear] for a future court date.”
Throughout the article, the statements by Judd such as the one above utilize selection and omission biases by intentionally including specific border policies of the Biden administration but neglecting to mention other important details of those policies in order to paint them as malicious. While Judd mentions that the Biden administration is releasing children who were caught crossing the border, he neglects to mention that, as is mentioned on the Department of Homeland Security website, the Family Reunification Task Force is specifically intended to reunite and support families separated at the border safely and requires parents or children applying for the program to qualify. This qualification process would likely eliminate issues with human or drug trafficking raised by Judd, but he either intentionally neglects to mention this fact or is unaware of the details.
On the more reliable side, the article “Sen. Braun to Newsmax: America Is Borrowing Its Way to a Deal,” has an analyst bias score of 25% conservative and an author bias score of 24% conservative. With these comparatively low bias scores or more center-leaning, this article received a 73% reliable accuracy score, much closer to Newsmax’s average. This article cites statements by Republican senators Mike Braun and Ted Cruz as sources on a $1 trillion infrastructure plan passed by the Senate in 2021. While these sources, being Republican politicians, are clearly biased towards the conservative side of the aisle, they are also directly connected to the issue discussed and have some credibility on that front. Regardless, selection and omission biases from these sources are present in the article.
Analysis of Reliability and Accuracy in Newsmax Opinion Pieces
In addition to news articles, Newsmax’s website also includes an opinion page that features, as the name implies, opinion pieces by many different authors. Newsmax uses the term “insiders” to describe the authors of its opinion pieces which seems to imply some kind of credibility, but how real is this image of credibility? While opinion pieces are bound to be biased simply by their nature of being specifically written as the opinions of the authors, Newsmax’s opinion pieces are noticeably conservative-leaning with little to no attempt at portraying both sides of the aisle. To get a better view of what Newsmax’s opinion pieces are like, let’s examine this opinion piece entitled “Spiritual Revival Best Hope for America’s Rebirth.” In this article, the author uses a variety of sources in an effort to convince the reader that the United States needs a Christian revival to survive.
“Sometimes I wonder if America is bending so far that we might break. The indictment, arrest, and arraignment of a former president, who has declared his candidacy for another run, is a new low, even in our current post-Christian state of America.”
This quote from the article implies several things. For one, the idea that the United States is a “post-Christian state.” Christians still make up a significant majority of the U.S. population, over 70% according to Pew Research Center. These statistics may not differentiate between devout Christians vs non-devout Christians, in defense of the author. However, the author makes a number of references to the Founding Fathers being Christian as support for his claim, but the assertion that all of the Founding Fathers were Christian is not true. The Founding Fathers were a group of people with a variety of beliefs from different types of Christianity to Theistic rationalism and, as a whole, did not intend to create a Christian state, but were also not strict secularists as other people might claim. It seems the author of this article specifically selected Christian founding fathers such as James Madison and James McHenry while omitting mention of Theistic rationalists or Deist founding fathers such as Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, or Benjamin Franklin.
“Victor Davis Hanson is an insightful historian. He sees the big picture so well. On April 6, he opined that America is fast approaching our own version of the Jacobin-led French Revolution. Hanson notes, ‘This revolution is run by elites and is a top-down operation. … Still, to thoroughly erase America, our Jacobins must radically alter our customs and traditions. … like the Jacobins, names, and dates had to be radically transformed. 1619, not 1776, is now America’s birthdate and, we are told, it was an ignominious one. Statues are toppled, careers Trotskyized.’”
The author’s inclusion of quotes regarding history made by historian Victor Davis Hanson does increase the article’s credibility to some extent, however, Hanson was certainly specifically chosen as a noted conservative historian as is evidenced by the article cited being from the conservative site American Greatness. It also bears mentioning that Hanson’s historical specialty is classics and military history, neither of which are particularly relevant to his assertions cited in the article. Not to say that Hanson has no knowledge of the French Revolution or modern politics, but they certainly aren’t his specialty and the author of this article likely omitted this fact intentionally.
The quotation by Hanson also compares the modern American Left to historical extreme factions such as the Jacobins of the French Revolution or Trotskyites of the 20th century with very little evidence explaining this connection. The author of this article likely included this specific quotation to portray his political opponents as extremists without mentioning specific policies of the American Left which are nearly as extreme as those advocated for by Jacobins or Trotskyites.
Overall, this particular Newsmax opinion piece is certainly biased toward the conservative side of American politics. While this isn’t necessarily an issue when it comes to opinion pieces as it is a given that opinion pieces will be biased, Newsmax makes no attempt to cover both sides of American politics as the vast majority of its opinion pieces advocate for conservative policies.
So is Newsmax Reliable?
Most news sources carry some degree of bias in their reporting and Newsmax is no exception. While reporting by Newsmax will generally not outright lie, it is worth knowing that their reporting tends to lean conservative which will undoubtedly cause some issues with reliability. Regardless, it is important to always evaluate news articles for accuracy on a case-by-case basis. An easy way to keep an eye out for this is to use Biasly’s News Check Chrome extension.
Many writers do a good job managing their biases to put out accurate reporting, but it is always important to verify the accuracy of any given news article by examining its sources. While Newsmax does generally lean conservative in its reporting and opinion pieces, knowing this is the first step to looking at the news with a more critical eye.