Evaluating the Emotional Health of Your Media Diet by Rick Kahler, CFP®

Evaluating the Emotional Health of Your Media Diet

Consuming a diet of just one type of news bias can result in long-term damage to your financial and emotional well-being. It can destroy relationships and make evidence-based, reasoned, and informed financial decisions. For example, selling out of the stock market or going all-in solely on one’s political beliefs and bias are almost always a recipe for financial disaster, states Rick. He has watched it time and time again over his 40 years of advising clients on their financial well-being. Some of the financial consequences he has witnessed are heartbreaking.

Rick recently asked an investor who had a history of making bad financial decisions to share the sources of news that influenced their decisions. However, the sources they provided were highly politically biased and mostly unreliable, which explained why their investments hadn’t worked out well.

To evaluate the balance of your own media diet, you can use bias-checking sites like Media Bias/Fact Check and Ad Fontes Media, which rate sources ideologically and for factual accuracy. To maintain a balanced media diet, aim for sources with right-center, least biased, or left-center political biases, and very high, high, or mostly factual ratings. You can also consider including a few hard-leaning right and left sources in your diet, like Fox News and CNN.

Here are some examples of daily news sources and their ratings for a political category and factual accuracy, starting with the 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.

It’s important to consume a balanced media diet that includes different political and financial perspectives. However, it can be challenging to do this since we tend to seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs. To make good financial decisions, we need to be aware of the ideological biases of news sources since they can influence our emotions and affect our investment choices. Therefore, it’s crucial to rely on news sources that provide a factual and trustworthy foundation.

In addition to being critical to our financial well-being, consuming a balanced media diet is also important for our overall mental and emotional health. In the era of 24-hour news cycles and social media, it is easy to become overwhelmed and anxious from constant exposure to sensationalized and biased news. By seeking out news sources that are balanced and factual, we can reduce our exposure to fear-mongering and outrage-inducing content and approach current events with a more measured and informed perspective.

Furthermore, a balanced media diet can also help us better understand and empathize with people who hold different political beliefs and worldviews. When we expose ourselves to news sources that present a range of perspectives, we gain a deeper understanding of the complexity and nuance of the issues we face as a society. We are better able to engage in productive dialogue and work towards solutions that benefit everyone.

Of course, building a balanced media diet is not just about the sources we choose to consume, but also about how we consume them. It is important to approach the news with a critical and analytical mindset, to fact-check and verify the information before accepting it as truth, and to question our own biases and assumptions. By actively engaging with the news, we can become more informed and more discerning consumers of information.

In conclusion, the importance of a balanced media diet cannot be overstated. By seeking out sources that are balanced, factual, and representative of a range of perspectives, we can improve our financial decision-making, reduce our exposure to fear-mongering and biased content, and become more informed and empathetic members of society.