The Washington Post, one of the prominent newspapers of the United States, is known for its high credibility and political coverage. Despite being a major newspaper, there have been instances when it demonstrated biases and even circulated misinformation or false stories. We, at Mediabuzz, do in-depth research to evaluate and give an elaborate analysis of the reporting methodology and stories published by the newspaper. We have referred to different reliable sources and gathered relevant details and data that was required to make this article informative.
Several factors have been considered while commenting on the biases and credibility of The Washington Post including the usage of adjectives, news sources, headlines and controversies among others.
The Washington Post Media Bias Summary
Media Bias Result: Left
The Washington Post is considered a left-leaning newspaper. Hence, the newspaper was one of the targets of former United States President Donald Trump. The Washington Post is also said to have an “anti-progressive bias” as it has published several op-eds against Bernie Sanders.
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The Washington Post Factual Reporting Summary
Factual Reporting Result: Slightly Reliable
The Washington Post is considered a reliable and trustworthy source of news. However, they use plenty of emotionally-charged words to push for their cause. There have been multiple instances when the daily has published false information or fake news. The daily has not been quick enough to make the changes or apologise for the errors. Having said that, The Washington Post has mostly been regular in presenting their side of the story in case of any controversy.
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A. The Washington Post Media Bias Analysis
The Washington Post covers a vast range of subjects including politics, culture, art and entertainment among others. It also regularly publishes opinion pieces written by experts and some eminent personalities. To analyse and evaluate the biases of The Washington Post, it is important to consider the tonality and its op-eds that reek of its ideology. The newspaper favours left. So far, it has never supported a Republican presidential candidate.
1. Analysis Of The Washington Post’s Headlines
I. On October 1, 2020, The Washington Post published a story with the headline ‘Food banks are removing the signed letter Trump wanted to include in every food-aid box’. A similar story was covered by USA Today under the headline ‘A signed letter from Trump is being included in food-aid boxes. Nonprofits feel conflicted.’ There is a stark difference in the tonality of both the headlines. While The Washington Post’s headline is assertive and dictating, USA Today has kept it plain and simple.
II. The Washington Post has been critical of Bernie Sanders as the senator has often called out the daily and other corporate media for being “anti-progressive”. Sanders was backed by progressive journalist watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting and socialist magazine Jacobin. The Washington Post once ran 16 anti-Bernie Sanders stories in 16 hours. Headlines of some of the articles are: ‘An Awkward Reality For Bernie Sanders. A Strategy Focussed On Whiter States‘, ‘Bernie Sanders’ Two Big Lies About The Global Economy‘ and ‘’Excuse Me’; Bernie Sanders Doesn’t Know How To Talk About Black People’ among others. Responding to Sanders’ allegation that the daily gives negative coverage to his campaign because of owner Jeff Bezos, executive editor Marty Baron said the accusations are “baseless and conspiratorial”.
III. The Washington Post covers Amazon-related stories differently than other media publications. According to Columbia Journalism Review, The Wall Street Journal published a story under the headline, “Postal Service Review Proposes Sweeping Changes Likely to Hit Amazon”. Same story was carried by WP with the headline, “Treasury suggests review of postal rates – but not just for Amazon”. The lead paragraph of the Journal stated the Treasury-led task force proposed a postal service to charge extra for certain deliveries and it was “going after Amazon.com Inc. and other online retailers.” However, the intro of The Washington Post’s story said that the task force recommended some options “but did not go so far as to say the financially strapped Postal Service is losing money to Amazon, a company which contracts services from the Postal Service.”
2. The Washington Post’s Endorsement Of Presidential Candidates
The Washington Post has never endorsed a Republican presidential candidate. In its September 28, 2020, opinion titled ‘Joe Biden for president’, The Washington Post clearly called Trump “the worst president of modern times”. The leading paragraph of the opinion says, “In order to expel the worst president of modern times, many voters might be willing to vote for almost anybody. Fortunately, to oust President Trump in 2020, voters do not have to lower their standards. The Democratic nominee, former vice president Joe Biden, is exceptionally well-qualified, by character and experience, to meet the daunting challenges that the nation will face over the coming four years”.
3. Allegations On The Washington Post
I. “American journalist and commentator Bill Moyers said that in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Post ran ‘more than 140 stories on its front page promoting the [Iraq] war’,” stated allsides.com.
II. After The Washington Post published ‘Trump’s 10,000 false and misleading statements’, Trump tweeted, “The Washington Post is a Fact Checker only for the Democrats. For the Republicans, and for your all-time favorite President, it is a Fake Fact Checker!”
III. The Washington Post was slammed by BJP’s foreign affairs chief Vijay Chauthaiwale in India. He called its editorial policy “highly biased and agenda-driven”. Without citing any example, Chauthaiwale said there were “a lot of problems” with the daily’s coverage of India. Responding to which, senior global opinions editor Eli Lopez tweeted, “Just to clarify: Jeff Bezos doesn’t tell Washington Post journalists what to write. Independent journalism is not about charming governments. But there’s no question the work of our correspondents and columnists fits within India’s democratic traditions”.
IV. Bernie Sanders in one of his 2019 campaigns in New Hampshire had said, “We have pointed out over and over again that Amazon made $10 billion in profits last year. You know how much they paid in taxes? You got it, zero! Any wonder why the Washington Post is not one of my great supporters, I wonder why?”
4. The Washington Post’s Readers
As per a survey conducted in 2014 by Pew Research Center, 61 percent of The Washington Post readers have leftist political views while seven percent belong to right-wing ideologies. Meanwhile, 20 percent of readers of The Washington Post are of mixed political views.
5. The Washington Post: Controversies
National political reporter of The Washington Post Felicia Sonmez was suspended after she tweeted about Kobe Bryant hours after his death. She posted a link to a Daily Beast article published in 2016 that detailed sexual assault allegations against Bryant in 2003. After uproar and threats on social media, Sonmez was “placed on administrative leave”. As many as 300 journalists and staff of the newspaper signed a letter in support of Sonmez.
The incident resurfaced when, during the Zoom meeting in March 2021, The Washington Post boasted how it defended reporter Seung Min Kim from anti-Asian internet trolls. Reacting to the same, Sonmez tweeted, “Wish the same Post editor who is quoted in this piece supported me when I was doxxed and had to leave my home. Instead, they were silent, and I was suspended. They continue to prevent me from fully doing my job, by barring me from covering sexual assault”.
6. The Washington Post: Biases For Owner Jeff Bezos And Amazon
I. The Washington Post has been owned by Jeff Bezos since 2013. As per Columbia Journalism Review, talking about the daily being owned by Bezos, one of The Washington Post’s employees told The Huffington Post, “I would say that I tend to do less critical thinking about Amazon than I do, say, about Facebook or Google or Walmart, and the reason is fairly obvious: because I am thankful for the opportunity I have, which wouldn’t exist without Jeff Bezos”.
II. According to researchgate.net, The Washington Post showed differences from other media platforms on the coverage of Bezos and his ex-wife MacKenzie Scott’s divorce. The New York Times published Bezos’ divorce stories nine times more than The Washington Post. Even the average length of articles was 243 words longer than the WP. To counter National Enquirer’s story, in which it published text messages exchanged between Bezos and a woman he was dating, The Washington Post came up with a long article defending Bezos and accusing National Enquirer of blackmailing.
7. Other Instances of Biases
The Washington Post published a profile of Maya Harris, Vice President Kamala Harris’ younger sister and adviser on July 23, 2019. Written by Ben Terris, the lead paragraph of the article started with an anecdote, in which Kamala compared campaigns with prisons. “It’s a treat that a prisoner gets when they ask for, ‘A morsel of food please’,” Kamala said shoving her hands forward as if clutching a metal plate, her voice now trembling like an old British man locked in a Dickensian jail cell. “‘And water! I just want wahtahhh….’ Your standards really go out the f—ing window,” read the introductory passage.
However, before Joe Biden’s inauguration, the article was republished but with a new introduction and a co-author. Rest remained unchanged. After the daily was criticized for removing the controversial comments under the influence of the new administration, the newspaper published an opinion with the headline: “Why did The Washington Post alter its profile of Maya Harris?”
B. The Washington Post Factual Reporting Analysis
The Washington Post has been accused of misreporting and publishing fake news a couple of times. In one of the cases where the misinformation published by the newspaper had a large impact, The Washington Post delayed in correcting the report. Sometimes, the daily goes on to publish the facts without proper verification.
1. Controversial Stories By The Washington Post
I. The Washington Post was slammed after it published an obituary for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a terrorist and leader of the Islamic State of Iraq. In the obituary written by its national security editor Joby Warrick, Baghdadi was called an “austere religious scholar”. After receiving flak, the headline was amended to address him as an “extremist leader”.
II. The Washington Post was among the media outlets that showed bias while reporting on a viral video of Covington Catholic High School students ‘taunting’ a Native American member of the Omaha tribe at the Indigenous People’s March in January 2019. Later, the newspaper was sued by the students claiming that it published seven “false and defamatory articles”. Fact-checking website Allsides.com later published a story saying “new video footage casts doubt on the original narrative”. The daily settled the case, without making the amount public.
2. Fake News Published By The Washington Post
I. In December 2016, The Washington Post created chaos with their story “Russian hackers penetrated U.S. electricity grid through a utility in Vermont, U.S. officials say.” “A code associated with the Russian hacking operation dubbed Grizzly Steppe by the Obama administration has been detected within the system of a Vermont utility, according to U.S. officials,” stated the introductory line. The story further said that the penetration “represents a potentially serious vulnerability”.
Despite being questioned by media outlets and the formal statement by the utility company, The Washington Post updated its story only an hour after the release of the official press statement. The changed header read, “Russian operation hacked a Vermont utility, showing risk to U.S. electrical grid security, officials say”.
Even 11 hours after editing the story, no editorial note was appended. It was only after several media outlets called out the newspaper, it finally did so. “An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid,” read the editorial note.
II. In January 2021, The Washington Post published a story based on information provided by an anonymous source. According to the story, in a telephonic conversation in December, former President Donald Trump had asked Georgia’s top election investigator Frances Watson to “find the fraud” and she would be a “National Hero”. However, the report was corrected after The Wall Street Journal obtained the recording of the conversation and published a completely different version of the story. As per Journal, those words were never said by Trump. Hence, after two months on March 16, 2021, the newspaper posted the correction saying, “The recording revealed that The Post misquoted Trump’s comments on the call, based on information provided by a source.” After the Journal’s story, the source was also disclosed by the Post saying it was “Jordan Fuchs, the deputy secretary of state whom Watson briefed on (Trump’s) comments.”
III. In December 2016, The Washington Post was among the prominent news outlets that picked up an unverified story published by Knoxville News Sentinel. It was a story of a Santa Claus actor at a hospital who held a boy in his arms before he passed away. It was later found that no such incident had happened at any local hospital.
C. The Washington Post Bias Reliability Ratings by Fact-Checking Websites
Let’s have a look at the ratings and reviews given to The Washington Post by the prominent fact-checking websites. Below we have summarised what Ad Fontes Media, Media Bias/Fact Check and AllSides have to say about the daily.
1. Media Bias/Fact Check
Based on its editorial pieces, Media Bias/Fact Check rates The Washington Post left-center biased. Despite a couple of instances where the newspaper published fake news, it is mostly reliable. Having said that, it needs to be extra cautious while depending on anonymous sources, states the fact-checking website. The publication never misses an opportunity to influence its readers, it further states.
AllSides also agrees with the evaluation done by Ad Fontes Media, thus approving that The Washington Post has “left media bias”. AllSides blind bias survey done in February 2020 also established the fact that the newspaper resonates with left ideology. “The publication has been accused of both liberal and conservative biases over the years,” AllSides further adds.
3. Ad Fontes Media
After evaluating several headlines and stories of The Washington Post, Ad Fontes Media rates the newspaper as left-leaning. As far as reliability is concerned, the website considers the content published by the daily as “most reliable”.
D. Brief Introduction of The Washington Post
The Washington Post is a daily newspaper based in Washington, D.C. in the United States. The English language national newspaper was established on December 6, 1877. Founded by Stilson Hutchins, it was acquired several times to overcome financial and editorial troubles. In 1933, Eugene Meyer took it out of bankruptcy and revived it, followed by his successors Phil and Katherine Graham. The Washington Post also has a website that was launched in June 1996. In October 2013, The Washington Post was sold to Nash Holdings, a company owned by Jeff Bezos.
E. The Washington Post Bias And Factual Reporting Summary
After going through its articles and op-ed pieces, we conclude that The Washington Post has left-center bias. It openly supported Joe Biden during the presidential elections in the US. The daily doesn’t refrain from carrying anti-Trump articles, thus presenting its political inclination without any hesitation. Whenever any controversy has hit the newspaper, it has tackled it mostly by publishing opinion pieces that narrate their views on the story. However, sometimes in order to promote its liberal cause, it has even published fake news regarding Trump and that too completely depending on information provided by the source. There have been other instances that clearly establish the fact that sometimes The Washington Post fails to check the veracity of the story and goes on to publish half-baked stories. Having said that, it can’t be denied that it is a highly popular newspaper among the readers in the United States. It has earned credibility and trust over time. Thus, it won’t be an exaggeration to say that despite having a left-wing bias, The Washington Post is mostly factual.