(Photo by Andy Gorel. Design by Joseph Ratliff.)

Andy Gorel is a News Editor and Bias Analyst at AllSides.

Opinion from the Center

At AllSides, we watch the media so you don’t have to. That’s not AllSides’ official slogan, and in reality, we help readers understand the media and people who hold different views from each other. But in my head, that’s sort of how I make sense of what drives our work.

When AllSides hired me in early 2023, I had a basic level of interest in “politics” and “the news,” but that was it. I didn’t realize that keeping up with the news and seeing a full picture of what’s actually happening in the world was nearly a full-time job. 

“No wonder news media confuses people,” I found myself thinking quite often, and still do. But after over a year on the job, being required to look at this stuff every day, I’ve learned a lot I never would have if I didn’t end up working for AllSides. So, in simple terms, I’m going to try to share some things I’ve learned about navigating today's news media landscape.

Table of Contents

How I Came to Work at AllSides 

As you may know, at AllSides, we’re all about context, so I’m going to share a bit about myself, to hopefully give context to some of my own biases and philosophies.

When AllSides hired me, I was coming from the music industry. Previously, I’d done everything from artist management and publicity, to tour photography, to performing as a musician and artist myself. I’d also worked at Atlantic Records in Los Angeles as an A&R scout. 

As for journalism experience, I’d had plenty of experience as a music journalist (a genre I’m still active in), but little beyond it.

Outside of the traditional sphere of music publications, I’d only had a few real bylines to share with AllSides when applying: an opinion on the pop singer Camila Cabello for The Daily Beast (Left bias), and a couple of opinions for The Independent (Lean Left bias) on Novak Djokovic and vaccine policy and the NFL.

Also included in my portfolio was an analysis/opinion I’d written for Newsweek (Center bias) on how Reddit was crushing free speech and unfairly suppressing anything involving Russia or Russians while r/Ukraine had become a haven for Westerners spewing hatred and calls for violence.

Newsweek’s editorial team loved the feature, and was about to run it, but asked me to consider pulling it because they thought the piece had the potential to blow up. As a new journalist, they told me, the piece could be taken out of context, and a reputation could follow me as a “Putin stooge,” despite multiple editors thinking my argument was very compelling.

After a phone call with the editor, I was told to take a few days to think about whether I wanted to publish it or not. Even though I held serious conviction in my stance, I was a little afraid but ultimately decided I wanted to go forward with it. Despite that, Newsweek told me they believed it was best to hold off, but encouraged me to pitch it to other publications.

I still don’t know what exactly went on behind the scenes and felt a bit frustrated. I was, and still am, very proud of the piece. That was my first lesson in understanding the media; sometimes, you just can’t.

I was left without the byline, but what would turn out to be a great portfolio piece for getting a job at AllSides. When AllSides Editor-in-Chief Henry Brechter (Center bias) saw the essay come through as part of my application, it made me a standout applicant, and a few weeks later I was hired.

AllSides took a chance on me – someone who understood the news media only at a baseline level – and for that I’m really grateful. After intently watching the news media for a little over a year now, here are some of the biggest things I’ve learned about media and media bias that I think you should know too.

Performing at Firefly Music Festival 2021 (Skylar Watkins).

Major Search Engines Bury the Right 

If you’ve been following AllSides even remotely closely lately, you will have learned this already. We’ve been watching Google News and other news aggregators over the past few years, and they all show an overwhelming majority of sources from the left. (Our 2023 Google News bias analysis recently went viral – I wrote about how the media received our work in a media bias alert.)

When we write our Headline Roundups, or Media Bias Alerts, finding coverage from the right can often be difficult. The lengths search engines seemingly go to bury sources from the right still puzzles me.

It’s not uncommon to see pages of local radio stations and unheard-of blogs ahead of more mainstream outlets like Washington Examiner (Lean Right bias) or National Review (Right bias) on certain stories. The New York Post (Lean Right bias) and Fox News (Right bias) enjoy the most preferential treatment from large aggregators like Google News. Still, even they’re often appearing behind loads of less notable outlets, depending on the story and how quickly search results are changing.

So how can the average person find the time to consume a balanced feed of content every day? And how can they know what they’re not seeing? These quandaries are why we’ve developed the AllSides Balanced Search tool, which allows users to sort search results by bias. 

We’re constantly making improvements, and it’s not perfect yet, but it’s an incredibly useful tool that we at AllSides all use regularly. If you’re looking for a more balanced experience when reading about a certain story, I highly recommend giving it a try.

The Left is Better at Covering International Stories

Simply put, the right largely does not care about international stories when compared to the left. The big ones will get covered, but American outlets like CNN (Lean Left bias), Politico (Lean Left bias), Associated Press (Lean Left bias), Washington Post (Lean Left bias), and The New York Times (Lean Left bias), among others, are much more thorough in their international reporting and have seemingly large amounts of staff and resources dedicated to international coverage.

Outlets like Breitbart (Right bias) or Newsmax (Right bias) are often good for running wires from left-leaning outlets like Associated Press or AFP on international stories, but this isn’t original coverage and therefore is not reflective of the republisher’s bias.

Internally, our news team has discussed this difference before. While we don’t know for sure, I personally think it has to do with, like most biases, reader demographics.

Liberals seem to be more concerned with what’s going on globally, whereas conservatives seem to be more focused on what is in front of them, or domestic issues. There are no hard-and-fast explainers for this, and I could wax poetic all day about how I perceive liberals and conservatives, generally speaking, to be different from each other in terms of non-political behaviors, but we can save that for another essay.

Getting a balanced perspective on an international story can be tricky, even when it is covered widely across the American media spectrum, which brings me to my next point.

The AllSides L-C-R Spectrum Is Great, But It Isn’t Everything

Critics of AllSides have said our L-C-R spectrum is too narrow in scope, which we have acknowledged openly. It’s important to remember that our rating system is just a guide for evaluating the bias of media outlets on a basic Left to Right scale. We are very aware that there are nuances to bias that exist beyond the scale we use.

For instance, The Intercept (Left bias) has a fundamentally different tone than The New York Times (Lean Left bias). The same can be said for ZeroHedge (Lean Right bias) and National Review (Right bias). Just because these outlets may appear similar because of where we rate them on our scale doesn’t mean we’re saying they don’t have differences.

For a more concrete example, throughout 2022 and much of 2023 Fox News (Right bias) and CNN (Lean Left bias) seemed to be in lockstep regarding Ukraine. Undeniably, much of the U.S. mainstream media demonstrated a pro-U.S. bias. Concurrent to this, commentators like Briahna Joy Gray (Left bias) and Tucker Carlson (Right bias), who often hold opposite views on most issues, seemed to hold many of the same non-interventionist views regarding NATO’s role in the conflict.

Our L-C-R method holds true most of the time, meaning you’ll usually see what you expect from sources of each respective bias. Nonetheless, we are exploring additional ways to assess outlets’ biases so we can provide readers with a more nuanced view of each publication.

Fact Checking Is Largely A Practice of the Left 

Fact checking, which was a booming form of journalism throughout the 2010s, has been on the schneid over the past few years.

Outlets on the left, like Snopes (Lean Left bias), The Washington Post (Lean Left bias), USA Today (Lean Left bias), and CNN’s Facts First (Left bias), are responsible for a large share of fact checking news coverage. Some outlets in the center are regulars too, like Reuters (Center bias) or Newsweek (Center bias). Most of these outlets post fact checks daily, but for the right, the fact checking space is quite barren.

Many of the fact checkers AllSides has rated on the right, like Free Beacon Fact Check (Right bias) or Breitbart (Right bias), post very infrequently, sometimes going months at a time without posting fact checks. Notably, one of the most prominent “fact checkers” on the right, National Review’s Forgotten Fact Checks (Right bias), isn’t really much of a traditional fact checker at all and more of a media commentary column.

It’s hard to fairly quantify if there is more misinformation spread by the right or the left. But in July 2023, the Harvard Kennedy School of Misinformation conducted a study that found 85% of academic experts who specialize in misinformation said they were on the left. The same study found 10% to be in the center, and 5% to be “slightly right-of-center.”

So if one thing is clear, it’s that fact checking coverage is not as much of interest to consumers of media on the right. 

Perhaps liberal sources overplayed their hand with fact checking by fact checking anything and everything, whether it was of significant importance or not. This could have caused the right to turn its back on the medium.

There’s A Lot of Subpar Opinion Journalism Out There

Just because someone wrote it on the internet doesn’t make it true – or even grounded in reality for that matter.

I have come across so much poorly-informed, narrowly presented, sloppily-written opinion coverage in my time at AllSides so far. If you read opinion commentary often, I’m sure you have too.

Opinion journalism is great because it allows us to consider alternative perspectives. What makes a good opinion piece is an author who knows how to bring nuance to an argument, and clearly inform readers of how they’re seeing things, from their point of view.

Next time you read an opinion that gets you really charged up, be it in agreement or disagreement, remember that the writer is only one person with one perspective, just like the rest of us.

People get paid for subpar services all the time. It’s no different in the world of media.

Keeping Up in the Modern Age of Journalism 

As I’ve only been at AllSides for a little over a year, I’m still learning about different news media outlets, reporters, and the sentiments of readers.

One of my longtime favorite quotes is from the 19th-century Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov, who once said, “Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music.” 

I believe the same can be said for journalism, which in turn becomes history. As a medium, it’s always evolving, and we have a lot to keep up with as it does.

But if there’s anything I’ve learned over the past year, it’s that the truth can be elusive in a world where we’re constantly barraged with information, sensation, and sometimes even propaganda. 

All we can do is try to understand everything being thrown at us, which begins with understanding the biases of outlets, commentators, politicians, and governments at large.

At the top of this essay, I said, “At AllSides, we watch the media so you don’t have to,” but I think there’s a bit more at play. What I really meant is, “We watch the media so you can, too.”

This piece was reviewed and edited by Henry Brechter, AllSides Editor-in-Chief (Center bias), Joseph Ratliff, Content Designer and News Editor (Lean Left bias), Julie Mastrine, Director of Marketing and Media Bias Ratings (Lean Right bias), and Malayna Bizier, Content Intern (Right bias).