Here's the skinny: A "Center" media bias rating from AllSides doesn't necessarily mean a source is neutral, unbiased, perfectly reasonable or credible. A Center media bias rating simply means a source or writer does not predictably show perspectives favoring either end of the political spectrum — conservative or liberal. A media outlet with a Center rating may omit important perspectives, or run individual articles that display bias, while not displaying a lot of predictable bias in its content overall. Center doesn't mean better! We encourage people to read outlets across the political spectrum.
Ever since AllSides released the first version of our Media Bias Chart, we've been paying careful attention to reader feedback. And one of the most common pieces of feedback has been from people who just can't seem to understand why we rated certain media outlets as "Center."
Here's a sampling of some comments on the chart from our Facebook page:
"NPR and Aljazerra - neutral? AllSides has just lost all credibility."
"The Hill, Bloomberg, BBC, and USA Today are NOT centrist; they all lean liberal."
"Seriously??!! Aljazeera? NPR?? USA Today?!!! CENTER??? LOL!"
"What profoundly moronic person actually thinks that the BBC, Aljazeera, NPR, Rueters, and Bloomberg are centrist?"
We hear this feedback, and have realized there may be some confusion over what a "Center" media bias rating from AllSides means. We want to say loud and clear: a Center rating does not necessarily mean a source is neutral, unbiased, or perfectly reasonable.
When looking at the AllSides Media Bias chart, it can be easy to assume the outlets rated Center are the most unbiased and determine that you should only read news from Center outlets. But that's not the case.
A Center media bias rating simply means a source or writer rated does not predictably show opinions favoring either end of the political spectrum — conservative or liberal. Either they don't show much bias at all, or their bias leans to the left and right equally at different times. It may also mean the outlet does a good job of portraying both sides equally.
But Center outlets will not necessarily give you the full story. It's important to note that sometimes, a media outlet with a Center rating misses important perspectives, leaving out valid arguments from the left or right.
For example, in the 20th century, mainstream media outlets that would have been rated Center did not prominently cover support for gay marriage. The issue of legalizing gay marriage was covered by libertarians writing in libertarian outlets, but largely ignored by other mainstream, Center outlets until the 21st century. In addition, many important issues of today did not gain coverage in mainstream Center outlets until (roughly estimated) the years following 2014 — including arguments for marijuana legalization, criticism of the War on Drugs, the American opioid epidemic, and criminal justice reform. Each of these issues were certainly important and visible to some people prior to 2014, but you would not have seen coverage of them in Center media outlest prior to about 2014.
While it may be easy to think that we should only consume media from Center outlets, AllSides believes Center is not necessarily the answer. By reading only Center outlets, we may still encounter bias and omission of important issues and perspectives. For this reason, it is important to consume a balanced news diet.