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Editorial

Videoclip reveals unsettling truths about media in the U.S.

April 11, 2018

Around two weeks ago, a videoclip started circulating social media that painted a chilling picture of modern television news.

In the video, dozens of TV stations from around the U.S. read from a script that had been handed to them from their owners, the Sinclair Broadcast Group. Sinclair owns or operates nearly 200 television stations in the U.S., and the videoclip compiled dozens of news anchors from different stations reading aloud the exact same story. The anchors sounded robotic in their delivery of the message, and this effect was compounded when the clips were spliced together and laid on top of one another.

This videoclip only scratches the surface of the problems that have been plaguing news stations across the country for the past several years. Things have been especially bad ever since the arrival of the Trump administration and the “fake news” message that President Trump has publicly embraced.

According to Deadspin.com, which originally put together the video, “Employees at local news stations across the country say it’s frustrating being forced to ignore real local news in favor of propaganda that smears other media outlets.”

Sinclair owns affiliates for bigger TV networks like CBS, Fox, NBC and ABC. It also owns many smaller, more local stations, the closest of which is a station based in the Twin Cities called The CW. Their control has slowly expanded over the stations that they own to the point where they’ve begun to alter content.

Reports say that nearly 50 percent of a station’s total newscast is made up of news packages written and produced by Sinclair, many of which have a right-leaning political connotation. This only leaves about 30 percent of the news cast for local stories, with the additional 20 percent being made up of national wire stories. Using this corporate content isn’t optional, and news producers can face legal and financial penalties if they deviate from the pre-made packages.

This is bad for journalism for a couple reasons. First, this clearly leaves an imbalance in the amount of local news coverage “local” news stations are providing to their viewers. Reporting on events and issues that are ongoing in the community get less coverage than they should, and viewers are robbed of news that could directly affect them.

On a grander scale, this trend is seriously damaging the reputation of journalism as a whole. The impression that the public gets from these forced messages is that the media is a corporation that does not genuinely investigate, report and protect democracy. In reality, it is a case where the reporters are as frustrated as the public that they are not able to do their job properly.

It’s a difficult problem to address because it is so systematically ingrained in our news media. However, the way to combat it is to give support to the small, local news organizations that have managed to stay independent of big corporations like Sinclair.

Citizens should be fully aware of this situation. They should also be aware that responsibility for it is not solely on the media. For a democracy to function properly, news makers should be separate from the corporations and political leaders they are supposed to keep an eye on.

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