What are the best nonpartisan news sources?
In an increasingly polarized news space, we often seek the goldilocks zone of nonpartisan news. Some sources may strike us as too liberal, others as too conservative, while all we’re looking for is the perfect, middle-ground combination. If you’re here to find out what those sources may be, you’ve come to the right place.
This chart demonstrates audience-created news leanings.
As we are saturated with news options, data shows that emotive content gets clicks, resulting in more partisan outlets than centrist. What incentive, then, would sources have to remain centrist?
There are a few companies whose mission is to craft news as devoid of political bias as possible. Often these sources take the form of wire services, like Associated Press and Reuters, meaning they are able to sell stories to other news sources. This is different than news outlets like MSNBC, NBC News, and CBS News. A study by Pew Research delved into this difference when analyzing Americans’ trust in different news sources.
How do these centrist sources survive in this complex climate?
One method is by creating content that is then interpreted by politically-leaning sources. To remain centrist, oftentimes these sources have had to shy away from traditional funding from politically-charged advertisements to create quality content. In fact, one way to find quality sources is to follow the funding: sources that don’t rely on an ad-based revenue model have the ability to put out highly credible, more objective news since they are not at the mercy of the companies they feature, regardless of whether or not their content caters to their subscriber base. A famous parallel can be seen in Elon Musk’s stance on marketing, and his focus on creating a quality product rather than convincing audiences to buy it.
Here are the top three centrist wires and outlets, based on credibility rating using The Factual’s algorithm:
- Associated Press
- Associated Press is a not-for-profit conglomerate that is headquartered in New York but maintains offices globally. It is a cooperative organization of newspapers and broadcasters.
- Top article: "Democrats’ impeachment charges say Trump betrayed the nation" (80%)
- An independent international news organization that also contains a financial data reporting sector.
- Top article: "S&P 500, Nasdaq gain on Nvidia, White House stock incentive report" (85%)
- The Conversation
- A not-for-profit conglomerate of news outlets that publish articles written by academics and researchers.
- Top article: "Hackers could shut down satellites – or turn them into weapons" (86%)
Now that we know the best centrist sources, we can ignore everything else, right?
In short, no. Despite having a target audience, politically-leaning sources still contain valid takes and, when conveyed in a credible manner, can inform and challenge our beliefs. The danger is in solely relying on a specific source to inform our understanding.
For example, I was talking to a friend recently who told me that they rely on the New York Times and NPR for all of their information. They would never trust anything that came from Breitbart or Fox News. Prior to my time at The Factual, I would probably say the same. However, the following article, recently featured in our newsletter, from Breitbart’s Frances Martel, “Missile Attack Hits U.S. Embassy in Baghdad,” scored 76%, making it the top-read on the subject. Had I acted on my biases and avoided this article, I never would have learned about the non-violent protests Baghdad facilitated to remove U.S. troops from the region.
Loyalty to one narrative can inhibit us from receiving the best news out there, and in such a saturated news space, there is no reason to read anything but the very best. And even if we hate to admit it, sometimes the best-quality article is from a source whose political leaning differs from our own.
How should I pick what to read?
Audiences should come to terms with the fact that credible articles can emerge from biased organizations. This means that we need to separate our individual bias toward certain publications and instead consider the articles as standalone works. Source quality is just one of the four factors we’ve identified to impact an article’s credibility, along with diversity of cited sources, author expertise, and writing tone. This means that articles from expert authors that reference diverse sources in a neutral tone can come from a range of left- or right-leaning sources as disparate as CNN and Fox News. We must take care not to dismiss an article before reading it.
To start your search, here are some of our frequent high-scoring left- and right-leaning publications for high-volume, general news content:
- The Washington Post
- Headquartered in Washington, D.C., this critically-acclaimed source has won 47 Pulitzer Prizes. It is an American daily newspaper owned by Jeff Bezos.
- Top article: "Populist Tucker Carlson shills for Roger Stone" (85%)
- The New York Times
- An American newspaper based in New York City with a global readership and large influence. As of 2020, this source has won 127 Pulitzer Prizes.
- Top article: "What Being a Mayor Taught Pete Buttigieg" (85%)
- National Public Radio
- A public and privately owned not-for-profit based in Washington, D.C. Most member stations are owned by government entities.
- Top article: "What To Know As Boeing Executives Testify Before Congress" (81%)
- The Wall Street Journal
- Business-focused, international daily newspaper headquartered in New York City.
- Top article: "Why Iowa and New Hampshire Matter" (76%)
- Reason is an American libertarian magazine, published monthly. They sport the motto “Free minds and free markets.”
- Top article: "Seattle City Council's Lone Socialist Is Reintroducing Her Amazon Tax" (90%)
- Forbes is a business-centered publication, with features including technology, communications, science, politics, and law. Forbes releases new content biweekly.
- Top article: “An HIV Vaccine By 2021? Here Is What Needs To Happen” (74%)
While the above publications are strong for a baseline understanding of concepts, they often lack the expertise of some smaller, more niche publications. Since the cost of media distribution has gone down, these sites have flourished by choosing a topic to intensely research, creating unique analysis and content that general news sources lack. Based on that, these special-interest publications often have the highest credibility scores according to our algorithm. We often feature these as long-reads, which provide readers with a contextual analysis of an issue at large. Here are some of the highest-rated, special-interest publications.
- Foreign Affairs: Foreign Policy Magazine
- Founded in 1970, Foreign Policy focuses on global affairs, current events, and domestic and international policy.
- Top article: "How China’s Incompetence Endangered the World" (90%)
- Domestic Policy: Naked Capitalism
- An American blog that looks critically at the intersection of finance, economics, and policy, often parsing their influence in major news stories.
- Top article: "Oil and Gas Emissions Are Reversing Progress from Coal’s Decline" (88%)
- Science and Technology: Ars Technica
- Ars Technica publishes news, reviews, and guides on computer hardware and software, science, technology policy, and video games.
- Top article: "Coronavirus outbreak hits 60,000 cases after reporting change" (88%)
- Culture: Smithsonian Magazine
- The Smithsonian Magazine is owned and published by The Smithsonian Institution, which supports scholarship in science, history, and the arts.
Sifting through the massive amount of information published from not only nonpartisan sources, but those with leanings and specializations, can be very time consuming. The Factual’s newsletter curates the most credible news from a variety of general sources and supplements them with a highly-ranked specialist publication. In the process, we often find our own biases challenged, yet never fail to promote articles from sources whose ideations differ from our own. Only by doing so are we able to say, with confidence, that we are reading the best news.
Cover image from Rene Rader.
Written by Kathryn Kelly
Kathryn is passionate about effective communication and storytelling. A lifelong learner, she graduated from USC in 2017, having studied creative writing and international relations. She joined the Teach for America Hawaii cohort while simultaneously obtaining her Master of Science in Education degree from Johns Hopkins University. On her free time, she enjoys taking art and yoga classes, eating hot pot, and surfing.