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The Philadelphia Inquirer: Media Bias And Factual Reporting Analysis

The Philadelphia Inquirer is a daily newspaper serving the Philadelphia metropolitan area of the United States. Established in 1829, it is considered a trustworthy source of information. It reports general news with a minimal bias, however, when it comes to opinion and editorial pieces, the left-center bias seeps through them. Mediabuzz couldn’t find any fake news published by The Philadelphia Inquirer. Having said that, we noticed a few propaganda-driven news articles that reflected its white bias.

In order to evaluate The Philadelphia Inquirer’s biases and reliability, Mediabuzz referred to various credible sources such as research papers, fact-checking websites and renowned news portals among others. There are several parameters to rate the biases and check the scale of factual reporting. Some of them are the usage of headlines, adjectives and emotionally-laden words, allegations, controversies, credible sources and many more.

The Philadelphia Inquirer Media Bias Summary

Media Bias Result: Left-Center

The editorials of The Philadelphia Inquirer reflect its left-center ideology.  The newspaper moderately favours liberal policies. As far as general news coverage is concerned, it reports with no bias or minimal bias. However, there are instances when The Philadelphia Inquirer showed its white biases through its articles and opinion pieces.

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The Philadelphia Inquirer Factual Reporting Summary

Factual Reporting Result: Highly Reliable

The Philadelphia Inquirer is known for its factual reporting.  With proper sourcing and an impressive fact-check record, the newspaper rates high on credibility. Mediabuzz couldn’t find any instance of misleading news, headers or emotion-loaded words. The Philadelphia Inquirer also doesn’t hesitate to issue an apology in case of error or mistake.

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A. The Philadelphia Inquirer Media Bias Analysis

The Philadelphia Inquirer covers a wide range of subjects like sports, politics, local news, business, entertainment, food, health and real estate among others. The newspaper also publishes editorials and opinion pieces written by renowned journalists and experts.  While its editorials reek of a left-center bias, The Philadelphia Inquirer ensures to maintain an impartial tone through general news coverage. Though rarely, The Philadelphia Inquirer has given readers a glimpse of its racial biases.

Analysis Of The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Headlines

The Philadelphia Inquirer is known for its balanced headlines when reporting news. As far as its editorial is concerned, it intentionally or unintentionally ends up showing its biases, whether racial or political. However, Mediabuzz found only a couple of instances where The Philadelphia Inquirer portrayed its biases.

I. Poverty and Norplant — Can Contraception Reduce the Underclass?

In late 1990, after FDA approved the use of contraceptive Norplant- within two days, The Philadelphia Inquirer triggered a controversy with its editorial “Poverty and Norplant–Can Contraception Reduce the Underclass?”. The piece asked whether incentives should be given to poor, black women for using the contraceptive Norplant. The incident led to a heated debate between readers, reporters and the editors.

II. Buildings Matter, Too

The Philadelphia Inquirer even faced wrath for its article on George Floyd protests. Published on June 2, 2020, the article titled “Buildings Matter, Too” was written by Inga Saffron. The header was in reference to the “Black Lives Matter” movement.  The newspaper was criticised across the globe for using such a headline.  Well, the Inquirer was quick to issue an apology. On June 3, the editors said that the headline was “deeply offensive” and “unacceptable”. “The headline offensively riffed on the Black Lives Matter movement, and suggested an equivalence between the loss of buildings and the lives of Black Americans. That is unacceptable,” the apology stated.

III. They marched for racial justice, and now they march for Palestine. Are policy makers listening?

Despite endorsing Joe Biden in the presidential election, The Philadelphia Inquirer published an opinion piece calling out the president along with America’s long-time ally Israel. Published on May 18, 2021, the piece on Israel and Palestine was written by Will Bunch, the national columnist of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “They marched for racial justice, and now they march for Palestine. Are policy makers listening?,” read the headline.

“In 2021, more Democrats from the left wing of the party are more willing to criticize Israel than ever before, but President Biden’s approach felt straight outta the ‘90s, as he offered strong support in phone calls to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” read the piece as it talked about Israel’s Gaza strikes.

2. The Philadelphia Inquirer: Endorsement of Political Parties

At the time of its origin, The Philadelphia Inquirer supported Democratic Party’s thoughts and ideologies. However, gradually, it began advocating pro-Republican stance. It was in the middle of the 20th century that the newspaper claimed to be politically independent.

I. Republican Faith

Under publisher James Elverson, The Philadelphia Inquirer went on to announce that it would be “steadily and vigorously Republican” in its approach. During the 1900 Republican convention in Philadelphia, an electric banner stating “Philadelphia Inquirer – Largest Republican Circulation in the World” was put up by Elverson. Time and again, The Philadelphia Inquirer gave examples of its Republican faith either by neglecting the national issues during the party’s rule or by celebrating Republicans’ victory at the newspaper headquarters.

II. Democrat Endorsement

On October 11, 2020, The Philadelphia Inquirer published an editorial endorsing Democrat Joe Biden for 2020 Presidential elections. “We believe Joe Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, have the ability to get America back on a healthy, unified track to regain the country’s strength and its standing in the world,” it wrote. “For one thing, in December 2019, The Inquirer Editorial Board called for President Trump to be impeached, writing that he’d “severely disrespected his office and the document he swore to protect and uphold.” That opinion stands,” the write-up further stated.

3. The Philadelphia Inquirer: Controversies/Allegations

I. Reduction Of Editorial Space

Pew Research published a report in October 2013 stating that The Philadelphia Inquirer made an announcement in September regarding the reduction of the editorial pages from two to one. This triggered debate as Editorial Page Editor Harold Jackson urged op-ed contributors to mark their protests against the move. Publisher Bob Hall said the newspaper’s reduction of space will make for an extra page on Sundays. He also acknowledged that people are upset with the decision.

II. Publisher vs. Editor

The 2013 article in phillymag.com written by Steve Volk recounts the differences that surfaced between The Philadelphia Inquirer editor Bill Marimow and publisher Bob Hall. Month-long conflict ended with the exit of Marimow. Justifying the firing, Hall wrote a seven-page email in which he went on to say, “Marimow does not have the support of most of the newsroom”.

III. Fake Advertisements

In a report published on June 6, 2008, Bloomberg pointed out how lack of advertising is adversely affecting The Philadelphia Inquirer. He mentioned there are 18 fake advertisements in the newspaper published on that particular day. “This one, for Derrie-Air, is for an airline that says it is the only “carbon-neutral luxury airline.” The newspaper has disclaimers in small print. The point apparently is to track the responses to the fake ads. Will they then show responses to advertisers in the hope that they will run real ads in the paper?,” the report states.

IV. Defamation Suit

Thomas Riley Jr., an attorney, accused The Philadelphia Inquirer of defaming him with a false report on its front page. “Attorney Claims Philly Inquirer Defamed Him,” reads the headline of the article published on courthousenews.com on June 20, 2012.  “A suburban attorney claims in court that he “enjoyed an unblemished reputation” for decades, until the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a front-page article falsely claiming he had been accused of impropriety in his post at the state convention center. Thomas Riley Jr. accuses Philadelphia Media, its reporter/editor Tom Infield, and Journal Register Property of slander and libel, in the Court of Common Pleas,” the report read.

4. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s White Bias

I. Sick And Tired Day

After the criticism on “Buildings Matter, Too” headline, 44 journalists working with the newspaper issued an open letter slamming Inquirer’s approach towards non-white communities. They also made an announcement calling in “sick and tired” on June 4. “Things need to change. On June 4, we’re calling in sick and tired. Sick and tired of pretending things are OK. Sick and tired of not being heard,” the letter read. On June 6, Philadelphia Inquirer announced that senior vice president and executive editor Stan Wischnowski would resign from his post in the wake of the controversy. Over 60 racial-justice, social-justice and media-justice organizations called for the radical transformation within the organization.

II. Racial Demographics Of The Newsroom

On February 12, 2021, The Philadelphia Inquirer published an article with the headline, “Inquirer has overwhelmingly white newsroom and its coverage underrepresents people of color, report says”. The article says that the racial demographics of The Philadelphia Inquirer is not equivalent to the city it represents. 75% of the newsroom is white, however only 34% of Philadelphia comprises white. On the other hand, Black journalists account for only 12% of the newsroom whereas Philadelphia is 40% Black. It also reported that three quarters of editors are white. At the same time Opinion, Investigations, Upside, Now, Digital and Spotlight desks have no Black journalists at all.

B. The Philadelphia Inquirer Factual Reporting Analysis

Impressively, no instances of fake news, half-baked information or misleading headlines have been found in the case of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The newspaper has a history of publishing accurate information and making proper use of its sources. It refers to Associated Press and The Washington Post for international stories. Below we have cited instances where The Philadelphia Inquirer has made efforts to improve their reliability.

1. Collaboration With PolitiFact

In March 2020, The Philadelphia Inquirer collaborated with fact-checking news website PolitiFact, thus becoming its exclusive state partner in Pennsylvania. “The Philadelphia Inquirer’s reputation and tenacity make it the ideal partner for PolitiFact in Pennsylvania,” said Aaron Sharockman, PolitiFact executive director after the deal. For the unversed, PolitiFact is a part of The Poynter Institute, a global nonprofit organisation dedicated to excellence in journalism. This collaboration was among PolitiFact’s deals with 13 local news outlets in order to fact-check state-level politicians.

2. Redesigning Opinion Page

The Philadelphia Inquirer even went on to redesign its opinion section in the newspaper so that readers can easily know the difference between news and opinion pieces. Among the changes introduced was a glossary explaining in detail the difference between editorials, op-eds and columns apart from labels to help readers identify news stories and opinion pieces.

C. The Philadelphia Inquirer Bias Reliability Ratings by Fact-Checking Websites

Media Bias/Fact Check has given high ratings to The Philadelphia Inquirer on credibility scale. The prominent fact-checking website also considers it to be a news source with minimal bias. Here’s what Media Bias/Fact Check has to say about the Philadelphia-based newspaper.

I. Media Bias/Fact Check

After reviewing the op-eds of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Media Bias/Fact Check came to the conclusion that the newspaper has a slight left inclination. For the last 20 years, it has endorsed Democratic presidential candidates. The fact-checking website states that The Philadelphia Inquirer “reports news accurately and with minimal bias”.  As far as its editorials are concerned, they are “moderately liberal”.

D. Brief Introduction of The Philadelphia Inquirer


The Philadelphia Inquirer, established by John R. Walker and John Norvell, published its first issue on June 1, 1829. Initially, it was known as The Pennsylvania Inquirer. Norvell was the former editor of Aurora & Gazette, Philadelphia’s largest newspaper.  The Philadelphia Inquirer is reportedly the third-oldest newspaper in the United States that has been continuously published. It is also the newspaper of record in the Delaware Valley. The Philadelphia Inquirer has won 20 Pulitzer Prizes until 2021. The newspaper launched its digital edition in 1995.


Daily newspaper The Philadelphia Inquirer and its website inquirer.com are owned by the non-profit organisation, Lenfest Institute. Revenue is generated through advertising and subscription charges.

E. The Philadelphia Inquirer Bias And Factual Reporting Summary

After an analysis of multiple reports published by prominent websites and in-depth research, Mediabuzz concludes that The Philadelphia Inquirer moderately favours left as evident from its op-ed pieces. At the same time, it ensures to maintain a neutral tone while reporting general news. The newspaper has been a hard-core Republican supporter however, for the last two decades it has shown faith in the Democratic Party. However, The Philadelphia Inquirer has a white bias which is visible in its newsroom population as well. It has a clean fact-check record. The Philadelphia Inquirer is even the state partner of PolitiFact, a fact-checking news website.

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