American Journalism More Subjective Than Factual: Study

The changeover evidently occurred in a 28-year period between 1989 and 2017

American journalism
American journalism has become highly subjective. (William B. Plowman/ NBC/ Getty)
NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Journalism in the U.S. has become much more subjective and opinion-based than the traditional just-the-facts reporting that was once the norm, a new study from the RAND Corporation found.

The changeover evidently occurred in a 28-year period between 1989 and 2017, according to the study, as journalism took on a new form beyond traditional media, like newspapers and broadcast networks, to new forms of news reporting, such as 24-hour cable channels, news apps and podcasts, according to

“Our research provides quantitative evidence for what we all can see in the media landscape: Journalism in the U.S. has become more subjective and consists less of the detailed event- or context-based reporting that used to characterize news coverage,” says Jennifer Kavanagh, a senior political scientist and lead author of the report. “News consumers can now see how the news has changed over the years and keep that in mind when making choices about which media outlets to rely on for news.”

The report compiled data via an analytics tool that was once used to find supporters of terrorism on social media and turned it into a detailed analysis of five print outlets, including The New York Times, Washington Post and St. Louis Post-Dispatch, six television networks: CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, Fox and MSNBC, and several journalistic websites, like Politico, The Blaze, Breitbart News Network, BuzzFeed Politics, The Daily Caller and The Huffington Post.

The tool scanned millions of lines of text and found a gradual, yet subtle, shift in word choice that points to a more subjective and opinionated style of writing and speaking. One of the potential reasons for the shift, the study noted, is that with the rise of cable news networks came the rise of more specialized reporting divided by political party lines.

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