Do you have a toxic relationship with your news source?

In order to understand the big picture of Redefining Love, we must learn that institutions can be just as toxic as individual relationships. Just as family systems can be rife with dysfunction that developed over generations, so too can larger systems within our society.

Entire religions, governments, political parties, corporations, education institutions, and sectors of the economy can be toxic. After all, they are made up of fallible human beings.

And, just as with individuals, these organizations may not be toxic for everyone who encounters them. Some people may function just fine within any given institution, while someone else finds it poisonous and stagnating.

The institution of the Media

Aside from politics and religion, perhaps no human institution is more vulnerable to toxicity than the Media. And unlike politics and religion, which can become toxic because they are directly tied to our emotions, the Media is all business (although it is the height of naiveté to dismiss the business side of either politics or religion).

Don’t misunderstand me. The Media most definitely uses emotion to appeal to consumers. But there’s that word… consumer. The Media is selling a product. Emotion is a highly effective tool to achieve higher sales.

Why the capital ‘M’?

Capitalizing the Media doesn’t follow any specific style rule (that I know of). If I was going to be a stickler about it I’d then capitalize all social institutions. But I’m not a stickler. I just like to capitalize the institution of the Media. Here’s why…

I think we dismiss the power the Media has over us, and we don’t give it the respect it deserves in a free society. It is just as powerful, if not more so, than religion and politics.

Unlike religion and politics, the Media is pervasive. It is everywhere. And without us even realizing it, the Media influences our religious and political beliefs. It is nearly impossible for a person’s values to be determined outside the influence of the Media.

Remember, the Media is a business.

Never, ever forget this.

It’s true that ever since the inception of the printing press people have used use media to forward a cause and create social change. The internet has broadened this platform infinitely. If you have access to a computer and an internet connection, you can be heard.

Individuals on a profit-free crusade are not part of the Media. The Media as an institution is more specifically Mass Media – the outlets that command an audience with the masses. Although it is true that anyone can put forth information on the internet, it is rare that an individual’s website gains mass attention.

What’s the first thing people do if their website gains a mass following? If they haven’t already, they commercialize their site. Why? Because if you’re going to put the time into it, you may as well get paid for your work.

Wanting an income is not a bad thing. I’m not anti-capitalism. I have advertising on my own sites! However, as soon as there’s a profit, there is the need to balance objectivity with cash flow.

It is quite possible to maintain this balance with integrity. But the bigger the business, the more the stakeholders, thus the harder it is to maintain objectivity.

When you are reading, watching, or listening to any form of news, keep in mind that you are a consumer – a customer for that news source.

Tabloid culture

Tabloids have been around for hundreds of years. But the inception of the internet and the 24-hour news cycle created an infinite platform to capitalize on fear and exploit the news for profit.

When a news outlet values the drive for profit above the truth, integrity no longer matters. Once maintaining integrity is no longer a priority, a tabloid can use any form of manipulation, exaggeration, and outright lies to gain the attention of consumers.

Tabloids exist in all forms of media – print, television, radio, and the internet. Here are the signs that you are consuming a tabloid:

  • Claims to be the only reliable source of the story.
  • Constantly criticizes other news outlets (there’s a difference between contradicting a news story from another source, and constantly making snarky references to their competitors).
  • Claims nearly every story is “breaking news.”
  • Sensationalizes coverage that contradicts other respected news outlets.
  • Presents editorial and opinion content as “news.”
  • Their “experts” have a financial interest in the story.
  • Rarely acknowledges a mistake, and when they do, it is a “yes, but…” statement, as in, “Yes, we got this wrong, but here’s our excuse.”

All tabloids have one singular goal…

To get you to gain all of your news from a single source – them and only them.

By alienating you from the larger media marketplace, the tabloid ensures you remain a loyal customer. Remember, their goal is to sell their product.

The difference between tabloids and other news sources

Profit is the aim of all Media sources. However, the difference between a tabloid and other news outlets is that while others rely on collecting facts, a tabloid relies on sensationalized, controversial coverage to attain viewers.

That’s not to say that reliable news sources don’t participate in sensationalization. All Media want to attract more consumers than their competitors with catchy headlines and gimmicks.

The thing to watch for is whether the outlet has “breaking news” multiple times a day or for every story, and whether other media outlets are competing for the same stories. If it truly is breaking news, it won’t be long before every news outlet assigns a reporter to the story.

Competition is a healthy form of accountability in the Media.

A good example of healthy competition is the coverage of the Watergate scandal by The New York Times and The Washington Post. Both outlets knew that if they got the story wrong – which did happen at times – the other outlet would discover the truth and take great pleasure in delivering the facts to the public.

When a tabloid convinces a consumer that they are the only reliable source of news, they eliminate their competition. Even when he or she encounters news from another source, the consumer dismisses it as wrong.

What does this have to do with Redefining Love?

Look closely at the signs and goal of a tabloid… isolation, manipulation, gaslighting, constant criticism, no accountability, and facts distortion. These are all signs of a toxic relationship.

Tabloids rely on fear to maintain their customer base, whereas reputable news sources rely on facts, honest reporting, and good presentation.

Any relationship based on fear is toxic. You should always be suspicious of an individual or organization that tries to isolate you from others and scare you into submitting to their message. The relationship becomes a power struggle based on control rather than healthy dialogue among equals.

When errors are made, reputable sources will immediately redact the story with the facts and no excuses. There is accountability.

A tabloid will avoid redacting. Instead, they will simply run a contradictory story later, trusting that their faithful followers will let it slide. If someone raises an issue with an error, those bringing the contradiction to light will be criticized and undermined, or the redaction will include an excuse.

These are the same tactics used by toxic personalities to control their targets. Whether you are in an individual relationship or are interacting with an institution or a group, you should always feel free to make up your own mind without enduring guilt or shame tactics, and you should always maintain an interest in relationships outside of the individual, group, or institution.

How do you know you are a victim of a tabloid?

In these uncertain times, it can seem like all news is designed to scare you. And to a certain extent, this is true. An old-school journalism professor I had used to jokingly say, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

This was said tongue in cheek as a criticism of sensational journalism, but there is a certain element of truth to it. Just as we can’t tear our eyes away from a car accident on the side of the road, we are drawn to bad news.

So how do you tell the difference between reliable news sources and a tabloid when all news sources have an element of sensationalism?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you get all your news primarily from a single source or Media company?
  • Do you actively seek news from multiple outlets?
  • Do you believe every single thing your preferred source says without question?
  • Do you get defensive of your news source when others disagree?
  • Do you have an intense emotional, angry reaction when exposed to other news sources?

How do you avoid becoming a victim of a tabloid?

The number one way to avoid being manipulated by a tabloid is to obtain your news from a variety of sources. Just as in your interpersonal relationships, community is important. Draw your news from a large community of diverse sources.

Avoid any news source that tries to convince you they are the only source in news. This is a red flag that they seek to isolate you from other sources.

Keep a positive attitude! Surround yourself with other people who are positive and emotionally healthy. If you are constantly complaining, constantly afraid, and constantly negative, you will be very vulnerable to the fear tactics of a tabloid (and to emotionally unhealthy individuals as well).

If you are living your best, most positive life, you will be turned off by a tabloid’s negative focus. For more information on how to lead a healthier, happier life, visit the How Do I Redefine Love? page.

For an even deeper understanding of how to find reliable news, visit to learn more about an online course to help you think for yourself, come to your own conclusions, and filter through the muck of the media called Mastering the Media: A Master Class in Responsible Media Use and Fact Checking.

Related Links:
The Big Picture
Redefining Love
The Family Connection
Toxic Relationships
The Shame Cycle
Dealing with Anger
How do I redefine love?

Published August 7, 2019

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