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My friend (a foreigner) was trying to get his bearings as to the American media and our politics, and I would like to responsibly (and from a neutral stance) introduce him to our news outlets. However, I find that even I as an American am ignorant of a few important facts concerning our media's political leanings--which to me are somewhat obvious but how factual/legitimate could I make my assessmests? I don't want to push my opinions on this guy nor anyone, and so I ask here because I hope to get some clarity (if possible!)

I mean, I can speak for what I have already come to think for myself--but that is my opinion. I do not seek opinions here, but fact. An answer backed up by empirical evidence would be fine, too.

Can any of the following news organizations be respectfully classified as either right- or left-leaning, or do any in fact deserve to be truly considered neutral and non-biased? Do they clearly and unabashedly identify themselves as being one way or the other?

  • Fox News
  • CNN
  • ABC
  • CBS
  • MSNBC
  • Reuters
  • AP
  • The Guardian
  • The Washington Post
  • New York Times
  • New York Post
  • The National Enquirer
  • Star Magazine
  • Newsy

If it is in fact hopeless to try to make a factual determination on any of the above, then please forgive me and kindly indicate that to me. I do not intend to draw an onslaught of opinions. Thank you.

(Related question from which this one is derived: Are major American news organizations in fact self-proclaimed as being left- or right-wing...or is determining that just relegated to public opinion?)

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    Unless you are thinking of different newspapers than I am, the Guardian and the Sun are UK (specifically, England) based rather than American. Reuters' status is more complicated. – origimbo May 10 at 1:07
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    Not really, unless the particular organization is fairly extreme, because the position of the center is subjective. For instance, I consider CNN to be pretty centrist, while a friend thinks it's very left-wing. Then you have the fact that you really can't describe politics accurately on only a single dimension. – jamesqf May 10 at 4:17
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    This site might help you determine where everyone lies. – Chipster May 10 at 5:51
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    @Chipster s/everyone lies/everyone stands/, heh... – agc May 10 at 7:52
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    I'm going to vote to close this on the grounds that it's too subjective. What one person considers to be a right or left wing positions can differ quite substantially from another person's opinion. – Dan Scally May 11 at 8:33
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Yes, news outlets can be, have been, and are so classified.

The results vary depending on the biases of the classifiers and the political spectrum model chosen, particularly with respect to what's considered neutral. There is general agreement as to which media are polar opposites, i.e. OAN is invariably considered further to the right than NPR; and also general agreement as to quality of coverage, i.e. the National Enquirer is invariably considered to provide lower quality coverage than say, the NYT, WaPo, or WSJ.

Note that bias is usually less a matter of factual errors, (most outlets are meticulous about the five Ws of Journalism), than reportorial scope -- bias tends to be more a matter of quantity of coverage, (making mountains of molehills, and conversely avoiding elephants in the room), quality of coverage, cultural obliviousness, negligence and relevant omissions, and at times outright spiking. Rarer is actual systemically biased lying and distortion.

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  • Fails to nail down what's neutral, and could use a few links to classifications. Pending... – agc May 10 at 7:51
  • What makes you think that an objective and absolute definition of "neutral" exists? It is not clear to me that it does. You can quantify relative bias of one outlet relative to another, but how to define where the center is? The sources you link to in this answer come as close to this as I think you are going to find. – Brian Z May 10 at 15:39
  • @BrianZ: maybe how it was done for google: economist.com/graphic-detail/2019/06/08/… – Fizz May 10 at 22:44
  • @BrianZ, The term absolute was not used or implied. As you suggest, relative objectivity seems reasonable, as with standard terms like "room temperature", or average temperature for a given climate on a given day, computed by selecting a measuring method and acquiring a certain range of data, then using a selected algorithm to find an average. Given the same input, (or usually given even similar input), and using the same algorithms, results tend to be replicable and somewhat foreseeable. Presumably analogous methods of computing neutrality exist, whether or not we've yet found any. – agc May 11 at 8:52
  • The sources you give already seem to do exactly that, so what am I missing? Aside from this question, I am saying that political bias is very different from room temperature, because your sample itself (the media landscape) may be biased one way or the other relative to public opinion on whatever issues one might deem relevant. – Brian Z May 11 at 11:33
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According to AllSides:

  • Fox News (opinion) - Right
  • Fox News (online news only) - Lean Right
  • CNN News (online news only) - Lean Left
  • CNN (opinion) - Left
  • ABC - Lean Left
  • CBS - Lean Left
  • MSNBC - Left
  • NBC - Lean Left
  • Reuters - Center
  • AP - Center
  • The Guardian - Lean Left
  • The Washington Post - Lean Left
  • New York Times (online news only) - Lean Left
  • New York Time (opinion) - Left
  • New York Post - Right

I will add, that AllSides list these sources as all Center:

  • AP
  • BBC
  • Bloomberg
  • The Christian Science Monitor
  • NPR (online news only) (opinion Lean Left)
  • Reuters
  • The Hill
  • USA Today
  • The Wall Street Journal (online news only) (opinion Lean Right)
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  • An important thing to note about the Wall Street Journal's editorial lean is that it's business Right, not religious Right. – Mark May 13 at 22:15
  • Per your question, I meant the National Enquirer. The Star is actually called Star Magazine apparently. The Sun is apparently from the UK, unbeknown to me! – ShieldOfSalvation May 15 at 18:55
  • I removed the Sun to stick with American media only. – ShieldOfSalvation May 15 at 19:08

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