I recently asked an investor who had a history of making poor financial decisions to send me a list of his sources for news that impacted his financial decisions. They were all extreme in their political bent, with very low to mixed probability of being factual. There was little question why his investment decisions hadn’t worked out well.
If you want to check the balance of your own media diet, the two bias-checking sites I use are Media Bias/Fact Check and Ad Fontes Media. Media Bias/Fact Check ranks sources ideologically as Extreme Left, Left, Left Center, Least Biased, Right Center, Right, or Extreme Right; it rates factual accuracy as Very High, High, Mostly Factual, Mixed, Low, or Very Low. Ad Fontes Media gives a numerical ranking based on Source Reliability from a low of 8 (Contains Misleading Info) to a high of 56 (Fact Reporting); its scale for Political Bias ranges from -30 (extreme left) to +30 (extreme right).
I have done my best for years to consume media that is close to center and factual. I look for Media Bias rankings of right-center, least biased, or left-center and an Ad Fontes bias rating of -/+5 or less, along with factual ratings of very high, high, or mostly factual and an Ad Fontes factual rating of 40 or more. I also add some hard-leaning right and left sources to my diet, which are Fox News and CNN.
Here are some of my daily news sources and how they are rated for political category/factual accuracy, starting with those that are least biased and most factual:
- News Nation (Cable News): Least Biased/High: Bias +5/Reliability 40
- The Hill: Least Biased/Mostly Factual; Bias -1/Reliability 43
- Barron’s: Right Center/High; Bias 0/Reliability 47
- PBS News Hour: Left Center/High; Bias -5/Reliability 48
- Wall Street Journal: Right Center/Mostly Factual; Bias +5/Reliability 45
- Axios: Left Center/High; Bias -4/Reliability 44
- Fox Business: Right Center/Mostly Factual; Bias +6/Reliability 43
- Politico: Left Center/High; Bias -7/Reliability 43
- New York Times: Left Center/High; Bias -8/Reliability 43
- CNN (Cable News): Left/Mixed; Bias -11/Reliability 38
- Fox (Cable News): Right/Mixed; Bias +18/Reliability 26
- Michael Smerconish (SiriusXM 124): Unrated by Media Bias/Fact Check; Bias -1/Reliability 37. This is one of the best sources of unbiased analysis. He sends a newsletter every day with a balanced diet of various sides of important current events.
Consuming a media diet that has a balance of political and financial facts and viewpoints isn’t always easy. Yet a balanced media diet is as critical to our financial wellbeing as a balanced food diet is to our physical wellbeing. Deliberately seeking out information that nudges us out of our comfort zones and challenges our assumptions requires conscious effort, given the tendency we all have toward confirmation bias—focusing on information that supports what we already believe.
Why does making that effort matter in terms of our financial lives? In the context of financial news, the political slant of various news sources might seem to be unimportant or irrelevant. It is not, because strong ideological biases influence the way even the same facts are presented. One source might frame a piece of financial news as an opportunity for long-term investors, while another might link it to political figures or events and a third might show it as a cause for panic.
Because most of our financial decisions are made emotionally rather than logically, slanted news presentations will affect what we do with our money. We already bring our own beliefs, biases, and assumptions to the table. This makes it even more important to rely on news sources that give us a trustworthy, factual foundation.