Information—misinformation—spreads like wildfire nowadays. With endless sources and mediums disseminating content, it can be difficult for anyone to properly vet the information they receive throughout the day. How can you know that a source is reliable? How can you tell if a journalist or publication has a hidden agenda? As a small business owner, you need to know the validity of any information or data you consume because these details are often used to make strategic decisions. This information can help small business owners with everything from deciding who to vote for to knowing how to take advantage of relevant tax benefits. This guide can help you parse “fake news” from factual news—even if it’s unfavorable. You will also learn how to surround yourself with accurate, unbiased content instead of sensationalized clickbait. Start by Checking With Fact-Checkers This may or may not come as a surprise, but politicians and media outlets don’t always tell the truth. Just because a politician makes a statement or the media shares a figure doesn’t mean that it is accurate or reliable. This reality is why the Poynter Institute developed Politifact, which checks the validity of stories, images, tweets, and claims. If you see a story online—even if you think it is true—you can turn to Politifact for more information. They will rate a story on a scale of “True” to “Pants on Fire” and provide more details about the topic. The website also shares a few bullet points at the top of each article for those in a hurry who need the facts fast. Snopes is another fact-checking site you can use to check news validity. As a small business owner, you’ll want to use these tools to check the accuracy of a story before you use it to inform any strategic decisions. They can also help you avoid sharing false stories on social media—mitigating the spread of misinformation for all. When in Doubt, Turn to this Media Bias Chart AdFontes Media updates its media bias chart annually and has both an interactive chart and a static chart that you can print for your wall. Source: https://www.adfontesmedia.com/static-mbc/?v402f03a963ba The chart takes 3 factors into consideration: \tPolitical Bias: Which way does a media outlet lean? Infowars is on the far right, Palmer Report is on the far left, and Reuters is right in the middle. You can approach news sources with a grain of salt if you know that they are biased in one direction or the other. \tSource Reliability: How accurate is the information likely to be? Occupy Democrats and The Daily Caller are both low on the chart for reliability. AP and the Wall Street Journal are both high on the chart, meaning the content is likely accurate. \tNews vs. Analysis: This third element covers whether just the news is presented or whether analysis may lead to biased opinions. CNN, Vice, and the New York Post all are heavy in analysis and opinion content, which may skew some information or present it in a biased light. You can use this chart for your own benefit, approaching biased sources and mostly opinion-based content with care. As a rule of thumb, seek out reporting from the top sources to make sure you are getting the best information. Follow Multiple Local News Sources While Politifact mostly focuses on national stories and the media bias chart lists major publications, you can take lessons applied through these tools and use them locally. As a small business owner, your life is more likely to be affected by the politics of your local city council, school board, and mayor than by Congress and the president. You will need to follow local news channels, newspapers, magazines, and even radio shows. According to a survey by Gallup in November 2019, local news outlets are viewed as less biased than national channels. They found 80% of Republicans thought the national news was too liberal compared to 50% thinking the same for local news. However, as you can see from the chart above, just because you think a source is liberal doesn’t mean it is. Pay attention to your local news sources and look for signs of bias. Bias can happen on a small scale (a host adding their opinion as an aside during transitions) or on a large scale as local outlets pick and choose which stories to cover. By following multiple local sources, you can get an idea for differences of opinions and better understand the varying viewpoints on a similar topic. These different vantage points can help you form a well-rounded opinion. Everyone Can Work Together to Identify Bias Remember, just because you disagree with the news doesn’t mean it’s false. Facing the facts when you don’t like them and challenging your beliefs are two key parts of staying informed in 2020. Everyone can take steps to call out inaccurate news stories and limit the hype created by various politicians and news outlets. Small business owners should use all information and resources at their disposal to make decisions to help their businesses thrive. By removing bias and uncertainty from your political or news sources, you can put yourself in a better position to succeed.