Factual Reporting: HIGH
World Press Freedom Rank: USA 45/180
USA Today is a daily newspaper founded in 1982 by businessman, author, and columnist Al Neuharth. USA Today covers national and world news with focuses on entertainment, pop culture, and celebrity gossip news. USA Today Network also provides a Principles of Ethical Conduct For Newsrooms that is available to be viewed here.
Funded by / Ownership
USA Today is owned by the Gannett Company, headquartered in McLean, Virginia, and is one of the largest newspaper publishers in the United States, with interests in newspapers, digital marketing services companies as well as television broadcasting. USA Today is funded through a subscription and advertising model.
Analysis / Bias
USA Today had never taken a position in a US presidential election. However, in 2016, USA Today published an editorial urging readers not to vote for Donald Trump. Further, they did not endorse Hillary Clinton either. USA Today explained its decision behind the “disendorsement” in a separate editorial titled: “Why we’re breaking tradition: Our view,” in which they explain that founder Al Neuharth in his column, described Trump in 2012, as “a clown who loves doing or saying things to get attention, no matter how ridiculous.” Essentially, they felt that this is what Al Neuharth would have wanted if he were alive. Although they did not endorse any single candidate they clearly were opposed to Donald Trump.
In 2017, a USA Today editorial published a rebuke of a Trump tweet: “Will Trump’s lows ever hit rock bottom?”
“Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office “begging” for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!” ~ Donald Trump
The USA Today Editorial Board responded by writing: “A president who’d all but call a senator a whore is unfit to clean toilets in Obama’s presidential library or to shine George W. Bush’s shoes.” When USA Today received criticism for this editorial’s perceived bias they responded with an additional editorial explaining their position.
In review, USA Today publishes stories with emotionally loaded headlines such as “President Trump’s 2017 performance review, from Putin with love.” USA Today also publishes opposite view articles such as “Democrats, it’s time for you to dump Hillary Clinton.” USA Today states they pair editorials with opposing views, however, in our review we found more editorials slightly favored the left through wording and story selection.
In June of 2018, with the hope of providing balance to readers, USA Today launched a conservative newsletter geared toward the heartland of the United States.
When it comes to reporting straight news, USA Today always uses proper sources such as Associated Press, Slate, New York Times, Politifact, The Hill, and ABC News. Further, straight news reporting is written with minimally loaded words and tends to cover both sides of issues.
A 2014 Pew Research Survey found that 41% of USA Today’s audience is consistently or mostly liberal, 32% Mixed and 27% consistently or mostly conservative. This indicates that they are preferred by a more liberal audience.
Failed Fact Checks
- “Hurricane Florence is not climate change or global warming. It’s just the weather.” – Low Scientific Credibility (op-ed)
Overall, we rate USA Today Left-Center Biased based on editorial positions that slightly favor the left. We also rate them High for factual reporting due to proper sourcing and a clean news reporting fact check record. (7/10/2016) Updated (M. Huitsing 09/30/2020)