Cable News Shows and Networks Ranked For Bias and Accuracy
Jul 31, 2023
Questions related to bias, objectivity, and accuracy in news hang over every media outlet, journalist, and news consumer. While nothing new to the news industry, understanding which news sources are reliable and in which direction they lean has become an increasingly daunting task given the mass proliferation of new outlets and the rise of infotainment.
Furthermore, in a time of bad actors, misinformation, and a political class blurring the lines between statesmen and media figures – members of Congress hosting cable news shows for example – the question of who to trust has never been more important for the health of our democracy.
A Colorado startup called Ad Fontes (meaning ‘to the sources’ in Latin), which recently raised $4.2 million in a first round of financing, believes it can help answer that question with its Media Bias Chart, which released a major data update earlier in the month.
The chart rates publications on two separate criteria, reliability and bias. On one axis, reliability is charted from 0 to 64 with anything over 40 coming in as very reliable. Publications that land somewhere between 40 and 30 are still quite reliable but include much more analysis or opinion. Anything below 24 is characterized as “Selective or Incomplete Story/Unfair Persuasion/Propaganda.”
The other axis plots how far away from zero publications veer, with zero being purely balanced coverage and -42 being “most extreme left” and 42 being “most extreme right.”
Cable News Networks
When looking at the five top cable news networks, Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, Newsmax, and NewsNation, CNN and NewsNation lead the pack in reliability with a 39.3 and 39.2 rating, respectively. MSNBC comes in third with a 31.5 reliability rating, while Fox has a 26 rating, and NewsMax is in “propaganda” territory with a 18.7 rating.
In terms of bias, NewsNation lands in the middle with a 2, skewing it ever-so-slightly right. CNN is next with a -10, putting it in “skews left” territory, while MSNBC has “strong left” rating of -16.8. Fox charts at “strong right” with a 17.83, while NewsMax is in “hyper-partisan right” territory with a 21.33.
Notably, Fox News and MSNBC have a wide range of reliability on the chart, while CNN’s programming remains between the 35 to 45 area.
Ad Fontes founder Vanessa Otero explained her methodology in a recent op-ed, writing, “all our articles and episodes have been rated by three-person (left-right-center) panels of Ad Fontes-trained analysts. We currently have over 60 analysts on staff who have collectively manually rated over 60,000 pieces of news and informational content.” Otero acknowledged that both she and her analysts have an inherent bias and that they actively work to “mitigate” those by “using repeatable standards and metrics and allowing accountability by having others observe” their process.
Cable News Shows
Looking at different hours of cable news television shows the disparities within cable news networks when it comes to reliability. The morning shows, for example, chart as more reliable than the networks as a whole, while prime time comes in as less so.
Fox’s Fox & Friends chart at 30.7 for reliability, higher than Fox’s overall 26. Fox & Friends rates in “hyper-partisan right” territory for bias, however, with a 21 — further right than the network overall. MSNBC’s Morning Joe is the most reliable of the top 3 cable news morning shows with a rating of 37.8. CNN This Morning is close behind with a 36.8 reliability rating, both land in “strong left” territory in terms of bias.
At 9 p.m., Fox’s Hannity scored a reliability rating of only 19.8 – putting it in “propaganda” territory. Rachel Maddow, who only hosts on Mondays, scored a reliability rating of 36.7 while Alex Wagner, who hosts the rest of the week, charted a 31.25. Maddow landed as more partisan than Wagner with a -17.7 and -15-75, respectively. Hannity was further from the center with a 24.6 rating. CNN’s 9 p.m. programming, which only recently got a permanent host in Kaitlin Collins, was not charted.
At 5 p.m., cable news’s top-rated show, The Five, charted at a 25.24 for reliability and a “strong right” 18 for bias. MSNBC’s Deadline: White House was more skewed with a -19, but more reliable at 33.3. CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper was the hour’s most reliable show with 36.9 rating and charted at -15.2 for bias.
Overall, of the top three cable news networks, Bret Baier’s Special Report landed as the most reliable program with a 44.33 rating and charted as “skews right” with a 9. CBS Nightly News with Norah O’Donnell, NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, and ABC World News Tonight with David Muir all rated just above Baier, in that order, as the most reliable news broadcasts in the U.S.
CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer wasn’t far behind Baier with a reliable rating of 42.04 and a -11.6 “skews left” bias. Anderson Cooper landed with a 38.10 reliability rating and -13 for bias. Maddow was MSNBC’s most reliable show, while Chris Haye’s All In scored a “propaganda” level 21.7 – Joy Reid fared a bit better with a 23.7 reliability rating. Reid charted a -20.7 for bias, while Hayes was at -18.4.
Chris Cuomo, the former CNN host who now helms the 8 p.m. hour of NewsNation, landed at -5.39 for bias, with a 30.88 reliability ratings.
Mediaite founder and NewsNation’s 9 p.m. host Dan Abrams lands smack dab in the middle on bias, achieving a 0.25, with a 35.89 reliability number.
Fox’s Jesse Watters Prime Time charted at a low 16.91 for reliability, below even NewsMax’s Greg Kelly who scored a 19.7. Laura Ingraham charted a 25.71 for reliability, but was more rightward than Watters scoring a 25.7 to his 23.3 for bias.
Click here for the full chart.
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Alex Griffing is a Senior Editor at Mediaite. Send tips via email: [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @alexgriffingCable News Networks Vanessa OteroCable News Shows Rachel MaddowAlex WagnerKaitlin Collins,Bret Baier’s Norah O’DonnellLester Holt,David MuirWolf BlitzerAnderson CooperChris Haye’sJoy ReidChris CuomoDan AbramsGreg KellyLaura Ingraham