Last week, a video showing hundreds of local television news anchors reciting the same script was edited together and released, sending the general public into a panic. The recited script warned against “biased and false” news, a message President Donald J. Trump has been shouting since he first started to run for the GOP nomination. The script, which hundreds of local news stations and anchors stated word for word on-air, was dispersed and mandated by Sinclair Broadcast Group, the owner of more than 190 television stations nationwide. The words were seemingly ordinary; however, upon seeing hundreds of anchors reciting the same message that has been propagated by the 45th President of the United States, panic set in.
A message like this is eerily similar to messages by state sponsored media in nondemocratic nations, given the generic mandatory script announcing a message aligning with the leading coalition and the one of the President's most propagated messages. People are worried this could start to happen more often, and with Sinclair’s largest catalogue of television stations, it may become a reality. TASS is the largest media company in Russia, the fourth largest media outlet in the world and is owned by the Russian Federation. The Korean Central News Agency is the only news agency in North Korea and is owned by the state. This is the fear if the largest owner of local television stations is allowed to spread messages through a script. Overall, the unknown is frightening, and sharing a likeness to Russia and North Korea regarding United States media is unwanted and unprecedented.
The unveiling of Sinclair Broadcast Group’s methods and motives is a great opportunity to remind the general public that media diversity is incredibly important, regardless of ideology. Unfortunately, this incident is evidence that some media may be biased to a fault, and incorporating news from several sources, platforms and media has never been more necessary. Only digesting local television news is not enough. Adding additional news sources reduces circumstances in which one might find themselves being influenced heavily by covert media operations, such as the information dissemination methods utilized by Sinclair Broadcast Group.
Self-fact checking is also an incredibly important process, and one that everyone needs to engage in when consuming all types of news media. This importance is never more evident than on the University of Minnesota campus. During the Graduate Hotel situation, many accounts of the incident were spread across the University, often accompanied by little validity. Additionally, rumor spread through social media in December 2017 that an active shooter appeared in Moos Tower, something that was found to be entirely untrue. Although crowdsourcing information is an efficient and easy way to receive updates, not every piece of information is true. Assumption is a dangerous thing, and taking the time to fact check is an important aspect of being a responsible University of Minnesota student. Through diversifying media consumption and fact-checking, hopefully everyone can achieve a better understanding of political and nonpolitical issues and the general public can become an increasingly responsible consumer.