How we determined this rating:
Editorial Review: Oct 2022
- Community Feedback: ratings
- AllSides has low or initial confidence in this bias rating.
Unless otherwise noted, this bias rating refers only to online news coverage, not TV, print, or radio content.Learn about our bias rating methods
About Semafor's Bias Rating
Semafor is a news media source with an AllSides Media Bias Rating™ of Lean Left.
What a "Lean Left" Rating Means
Sources with an AllSides Media Bias Rating of Lean Left display media bias in ways that moderately align with liberal, progressive, or left-wing thought and/or policy agendas. A Lean Left bias is a moderately liberal rating on the political spectrum.Learn more about Lean Left ratings
Bias ReviewsWe use multiple methods to analyze sources. Learn how we rate media bias.
Semafor Rated Lean Left in Oct. 2022 Small Group Editorial Review
AllSides gave Semafor a Lean Left initial bias rating following an Oct. 2022 Small Group Editorial Review by reviewers on the left, center, and right. The average of their ratings was -1.1, putting Semafor in the Lean Left category.
The panel applauded Semafor's transparent structure of dividing news from the reporter's view, disagreeing perspectives, and other perspectives. However, the "Room for Disagreement" section often voiced Republican concerns (example, example), suggesting that most of Semafor's reporting is on the left.
- Lean Left word choices included references to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot as an insurrection and use of the term gender-affirming care to describe transgender medical transition procedures. (Read about why the left and right disagree on the use of the term insurrection here, and the term gender-affirming care here.)
- An article explaining how Republican Senators received a letter from a pro-life group committed spin and bias by omission, as the reporter interpreted the tone of the letter for the reader instead of directly quoting it and letting the reader decide what they thought about the tone for themselves. The reporter wrote that the group was "warning [Republicans] in no uncertain terms" and "sent a follow-up letter toning down their demands," but doesn't provide direct quotes to let the reader interpret for themselves.
- An article about Biden pledging to codify Roe v. Wade did not include Republicans' stance, amounting to bias by viewpoint omission.
- Reviewing an article about Kanye West, a reviewer on the right saw it as containing spin and bias by omission because it did not include direct quotes from the people it was reporting on. For instance, the article said Parler CEO George Farmer "is good friends with West and publicly defended him after his antisemitic comments." The reporter doesn't tell us exactly what the Parler CEO said so the reader can decide for themselves; readers have to go elsewhere to get the full information.
- The article about a bill to ban transgender medical procedures for minors did not include any perspectives from detransitioners.
Community FeedbackFeedback does not determine ratings, but may trigger deeper review.
As of December 2023, people have voted on the AllSides Media Bias Rating for Semafor. On average, those who disagree with our rating think this source has a Lean Left bias.
Confidence LevelConfidence is determined by how many reviews have been applied and consistency of data.
As of December 2023, AllSides has low or initial confidence in our Lean left rating for Semafor. If we perform more bias reviews and gather consistent data, this confidence level will increase.
Semafor is "a new digital media company with a focus on global news for college-educated readers," according to CNBC [retrieved 10/18/2022]. Co-Founder and CEO Justin B. Smith is the former CEO of Bloomberg Media, and Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith is the former media columnist at The New York Times and previously the founding Editor-in-Chief of Buzzfeed News; he previously covered politics at Politico and The New York Daily News.
Semafor state its article architecture is "an effort to rebuild trust from our audience." Most stories adhere to a “Semaform,” featuring five sections: “The News,” “Reporter’s View,” “Room for Disagreement,” “The View From” and “Notable.”
Third-Party Accusations of Bias: Semafor's Ties to Sam Bankman-Fried
Numerous people accused Semafor of bias due to its investment ties to Sam Bankman-Fried, the former CEO of crypto exchange platform FTX who was charged with fraud.
"SBF showered money on liberal media:
The Law and Justice Journalism Project
they all took it, and none of them broke the story."
Semafor was also accused of bias by Twitter CEO Elon Musk in Nov. 2022 when it published a story claiming that Sam Bankman-Fried “owns a sizable chunk of a now privately held and debt-laden Twitter,” writing that Musk had invited SBF to roll the $100 million stake he had in Twitter over into a privately held Twitter. Musk denied this on Twitter, saying that while all public holders of Twitter were allowed to roll their stock into Twitter as a private company, SBF did not do so and “owns 0%.”
Musk followed up with, “To be direct, the very real concern here is that you have been pushing a completely false SBF ownership of Twitter narrative while effectively being his paid shill.”
Semafor Ownership and FundingFunding and ownership do not influence bias ratings. We rate the bias of content only.
Owner: Justin Smith and Ben Smith
Note: Funding and ownership is not taken into account when determining AllSides Media Bias Ratings™. Our bias ratings are determined by assessing the bias of content only.
In June 2022, The New York Times reported that Semafor "will initially be supported by around $25 million from investors, with early revenue coming from advertising and live events. They plan to eventually charge for subscriptions." According to Crunchbase, as of Oct. 2022 Semafor was funded by 5 investors: Sam Bankman-Fried, John Thornton, David G. Bradley, Jessica Lessin, and Jorge Paulo Lemann.
After Bankman-Fried was arrested and charged with fraud, some called for Semafor to return this money. Journalist Mickey Kaus wrote in a post titled "Send It Back, Ben!" (addressing Semafor's editor-in-chief Ben Smith), "But morally, it seems almost open and shut. Maybe Bankman-Fried wasn’t a felon: The jury is still out —or, more accurately, has yet to be empaneled. But the stench of sleaze and scamming is unmistakable and familiar."
Semafor co-founder Justin Smith addressed Bankman-Fried's investment in a Dec. 2, 2022 memo to employees, which he posted to Twitter. He did not reveal how much SBF invested. Around this time, many major media companies with ties to SBF, such as Vox, ProPublica, and possibly The Intercept, started returning money as it SBF's gains may have come from fraud.
“We accepted this investment in the spirit in which it was offered — to support independent journalism.
Our pre-seed round was structured as a Simple Agreement for Future Equity (otherwise known as "SAFE"), without a lead investor. The structure of a SAFE means that as of today, Bankman-Fried does not hold actual shares of Semafor.If his interest is eventually converted into equity, he will hold a passive single-digit minority stake. All of our SAFE investors have the same terms, and Bankman-Fried has no additional rights or interests.
When we formed Semafor, we set up a series of firewalls to ensure independence fromour investors—a structure we believe is essential to our mission of producing independent journalism...In short, Bankman Fried, like all our investors, has no influence over our editorial coverage or operations....Regarding the status of Bankman Fried's investment, it is our intention—in consulation with our legal counsel—to allow the various government agencies tha are still in the early stages of investigating Bankman-Fried and FTX to decide how best to handle his interest in Semafor.
We will await their [investigative authorities’] guidance on appropriate next steps and don’t anticipate any impact on our business.”
Last updated Dec. 27, 2022. If you thinkt his information is out of date, contact us.