Pat Farrell, owner of Sibley Orchards, once told me "The more you talk with people of different viewpoints, the clearer your own perspective becomes." That simple statement has carried with me and seems to be very appropriate for the times we are living in right now.
In our current information age, any viewpoint is just a click away. Intuitively we might believe that this abundance of information has helped us obtain a more well-rounded perspective of the world. Sadly, this is not the case. Instead what it has done is make it easier for us to find evidence that supports our pre-existing ideas, and to filter out information that does not conform to them.
This behavior, also known as confirmation bias, has become a serious problem in America. In the past, when informational sources were limited and journalists took their oath of being unbiased seriously, people often heard multiple sides to the day’s issues whether they wanted to or not. However, with the explosion of the internet, and 24/7 cable news networks, competition has driven news providers to take the Burger King strategy of giving you information "your way right away."
While they might not have been the first, the Fox News Channel has certainly been the most successful in this approach. Under the leadership of Roger Ailes, FNC recognized that a segment of the population held a certain viewpoint and wanted to hear that perspective echoed in an entertaining way. Shortly after its debut in 1996, the conservative-leaning network began beating its more established news competitors like CNN and MSNBC.
Today, they are the most watched cable network in the country, regularly beating such channels as ESPN, TNT and USA. In fact, a little over a week ago a record-breaking number of viewers tuned into the network to watch President Trump’s rally in Tulsa.
This strategy proved so successful that other news networks opted to reshape their broadcasts to reach viewers of other political perspectives as well. MSNBC unapologetically now slants its news very left of center and has hired more ideological commentators like Rachel Maddow to compete with popular conservative hosts like Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson. In my opinion, Walter Cronkite would be mortified by what broadcast journalism has become.
The reason I talk about this in a financial column is the skewed perspective you are getting when watching the news does not only relate to predictions on what will happen next in our election. It also relates to what will happen next in our economy. If you are loyal to a single media source, you are likely not getting a full picture on economic news. In matters as important as your savings and retirement it’s important to hear all of the facts, not just some.
Regular readers of our column have probably noticed that the opinions of Stewardship Capital advisers can sometimes vary. Those different perspectives are not only healthy, they are beneficial in helping us provide well-rounded financial advice to our clients. As General Patton once said. "If everybody is thinking alike then somebody isn’t thinking."
If you’re interested in a fresh perspective on your investment management strategy, talk to us. We might be able to help you to see things differently than you have in the past.
(Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Advice is general in nature and not intended for specific situations)
Luke Davis is the director of operations and compliance at Stewardship Capital in Independence.