Looking for more objective news coverage? We found some.
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Looking for more objective news coverage? We found some.

January 7, 2018

The Raw Data

Unspun and unbiased. These are the facts.

11 Saudi princes arrested after Riyadh protest on suspension of royal subsidies

On Saturday, Saudi Arabia’s attorney general said 11 Saudi princes were arrested after they protested at a palace in Riyadh on Thursday. The attorney general’s statement said the princes objected to a government measure suspending subsidies that cover royal families’ water and electricity bills. The princes also reportedly sought compensation for the execution of a cousin convicted of murder in 2016. According to Reuters, the princes were charged with disturbing public peace and order.

Read the full Raw Data here.

Distortion Highlights

  • Much of the news the Knife analyzes has a high degree of distortion, which means it’s less objective and data-based.
  • In fact, of the past 550 articles we’ve analyzed, the average article is 48 percent distorted.
  • So, which stories are more data-based? It certainly wasn’t the coverage of Trump’s mental fitness. Interestingly, it was coverage of Saudi Arabian princes.
  • See how this story was more objective than others, and explore why.

Show Me Everything

The Distortion

The Knife’s analysis of how news outlets distort information. (This section may contain opinion.)

Top Spin Words

  • Crackdown

    Saudi Arabia last year rounded up dozens of royal family members, current and former senior officials in the crackdown on corruption that has also strengthened the power of the heir to the Saudi throne, Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (Reuters)

    Two months ago, authorities arrested dozens of royals, businessmen and senior government officials as a part of a corruption crackdown. (CNN)

  • Controversial

    The crown prince has already introduced sweeping changes including subsidy cuts, new taxes and the lifting of a controversial ban on women driving. (CNN)

  • Grappled

    The unemployment rate in Saudi Arabia surpassed 12 percent last year as the economy grappled with the fallout from low oil prices. (Al Jazeera)

  • Angered

    The group were angered by the government’s decision to stop paying the water and energy bills of royals. (BBC)

  • Wildly

    The Saudi royal family is thought to number thousands, but the wealth and status between them can vary wildly. (BBC)

­Most news reporting the Knife analyzes has a high degree of distortion, meaning it’s not very objective or data-based. In fact, the average article we analyze is 48 percent distorted, and that’s the average of the last 550 news articles we’ve examined!

You’d think a story that involves members of a royal family, government protests and arrests might be similarly distorted, but that wasn’t the case with the coverage of the arrest of 11 Saudi princes that was announced on Saturday. We analyzed Al Jazeera, BBC, CNN and Reuters, and they all provided reporting that was largely objective (take a look at their ratings here).

We compared these four articles on Saudi with two similar types of stories we’ve analyzed: stories about protests, and ones about corruption. The specifics, scope and consequences of the other stories vary greatly in comparison to the Saudi coverage — in other words, this is by no means “apples to apples.”

However, the comparison raised important questions, such as: Why were the other stories more distorted than Saturday’s articles on Saudi Arabia? Was it the absence of reported violence in the Saudi story? Was it that the protesters, in this case, were royalty? Was it the specifics of the issues involved? Were reporters less emotionally invested in the story than they may be in stories on, say, President Trump? You be the judge.

Protests and arrests

This news event we analyzed over the weekend was about 11 Saudi princes who protested recent government measures requiring members of the royal family to pay for utilities, as well as a new value-added tax. We’ve covered several government protests in the U.S. and other countries during the past year, some of which have also resulted in arrests. For comparison, here are Knife ratings for four other stories on protests. (A higher integrity or overall rating means the coverage was more objective.)

Note: the number of protests and protesters in the examples below are far greater than the protest by the 11 princes. Also, violence was reported in the other protests, but not in this Saudi Arabia story. What they all have in common is grievances against the government.


This story

Jan. 6, 2018

Iranian protests

Jan. 3, 2018

Russian protests

Oct. 8, 2017

Knife integrity ratings

Highest: 87%

Lowest: 81%

Highest: 67%

Lowest: 38%

Highest: 53%

Lowest: 17%


This story

Catalonia protests

Oct. 2, 2017

Washington protests

Sept. 17, 2017

Knife integrity ratings

Highest: 87%

Lowest: 81%

Highest: 69%

Lowest: 28%

Highest: 56%

Lowest: 37%

Corruption or alleged corruption

The Saudi Arabian government has recently investigated or arrested individuals suspected of corruption, including a billionaire prince and current or former government ministers. Although this wasn’t the central focus of this article, the outlets we analyzed did reference those events. Let’s compare this coverage to past corruption stories we’ve analyzed.

Note: For background, in the case of the Brazil story, former President Lula da Silva was tried and found guilty of corruption, although he has denied the charges against him. The coverage of the so-called Paradise Papers implied wrongdoing involving offshore accounts, without basing the implication on data and before any formal investigation was underway.


This story

Jan. 6, 2018

Paradise Papers

Nov. 6, 2017

Brazil conviction

July 13, 2017

Knife integrity ratings

Highest: 87%

Lowest: 81%

Highest: 65%

Lowest: 51%

Highest: 74%

Lowest: 27%

Objective reporting helps us get a more accurate, balanced and complete picture of events, and assists in developing critical thinking and discernment skills. As media analysts, we welcome reporting like this and hope you also welcome the change of pace. Kudos to these four outlets and others that reported the story with data.

Is it fact or fiction? Which outlet presents the most spin?

  • 15% Spun

  • 17% Spun

  • 22% Spun

  • 30% Spun



“Upon arrest, they were sent to a notorious maximum-security facility south of Riyadh in contrast to dozens of other high-profile figures who were detained in a luxury hotel last year during an anti-corruption drive.”

Upon arrest for disturbing public peace and order, 11 princes were taken to the maximum-security al-Hayer prison south of Riyadh. Dozens of other princes were detained in a five-star hotel last year for alleged corruption.

The Numbers

See how the articles rate in spin, slant and logic when held against objective standards.

View Technical Sheet >