Theres a curious video going around featuring several local news anchors reading from an identical script. “We’re concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country,” the reporters say in their recorded segments. “The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media.”

Watch the video yourself (story continues below):

So, what exactly did you just watch?

Telecommunications giant Sinclair Broadcast Group recently required local stations to produce and air a segment slamming the “fake stories” and “false news” their viewers are consuming via other media outlets.


Do the terms “fake stories” and “false news” ring a bell?

GIF via Robin Sayer/Deadspin/YouTube.

Yes, they echo President Donald Trump’s debunked claims that the “fake news” media is hellbent on destroying his administration.

And no, that’s definitely not a coincidence.

Sinclair Broadcast Group’s executive chairman is David Smith, a Trump backer with ties to the White House.

The video above, edited and published by Deadspin, was a mash-up of several Sinclair affiliates airing this disturbing segment.

“Sinclair’s probably the most dangerous company most people have never heard of,” Michael Copps, the George W. Bush-appointed former chairman of FCC, told The Guardian in August 2017.

While Sinclair may not be a household name, most households have been swayed by the company. It’s the largest broadcast news corporation in the U.S., owning or operating nearly 200 stations coast-to-coast. And if a new move to obtain Tribune Media is approved — which is likely under the Trump administration — Sinclair will be able to reach at least 70% of U.S. households.

Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images.

For what it’s worth, many journalists working for Sinclair stations have spoken out anonymously against these script-reading requirements, slamming them as “manipulative” of their viewers. Others have expressed how difficult it is for TV anchors to quit; according to one Sinclair reporter, they can often be forced to pay a hefty sum (as much as 40%!) if they quit before their contract is up.

Two particularly disturbing ideas are sneakily pushed onto viewers through these segments.

One is that the Sinclair reporters have been forced to promote the White House narrative that much of the media is biased — and therefore, cannot be trusted. “Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think,” the reporters say in the segment. “This is extremely dangerous to a democracy.”

The script doesn’t name particular reports or specific, untrustworthy sources as being inaccurate. It vaguely describes ”some members of the media” as having ulterior motives, intentionally sowing doubt in the broader free press.  

Secondly, the script suggests to the viewer that only the conservative Sinclair stations — unlike its competitors or other sources — are the truly trustworthy ones.

”It’s our responsibility to pursue and report the truth,” the script reads. ”We understand truth is neither politically left nor right. Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.”

Except that’s not the case.

”Really, what [Sinclair is] doing is kind of like the Fox [News’] ‘fair and balanced’ slogan,” CNN's Brian Stelter reported. ”It's a way of saying, ‘We’re fair, but everybody else is biased.’ It's taking a page out of Trump's playbook.”

Although disturbing, this mandatory new script-reading isn’t entirely shocking to those who’ve been paying attention.

Sinclair — which hired former Trump advisor Boris Epshteyn as a chief political analyst — has already been slammed for packaging conservative, pro-Trump commentary pieces alongside its news coverage, blurring the lines between opinion segments and fact-based reporting.

Here’s one segment featuring Epshteyn where he defended Trump’s controversial response to the gathering of neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia, after a white supremacist took the life of innocent protester Heather Heyer:

As Think Progress reported in October 2017:

“Sinclair often defends the must-run segments by arguing that they don’t take up much time, but the short packaging is part of what makes the programming so insidious. They’re slotted into local newscasts easily and not clearly marked as opinion or required programming. The segments run on 174 stations currently owned by Sinclair, which is aggressively expanding.”

What’s more, some have argued Sinclair’s cozy relationship with the Trump White House has allowed the company to skirt around media monopoly regulations as it continues to grow in scope and influence, The Guardian reported.

Americans deserve unbiased news reporting, free of corporate sway and special interest influence.

Where do we draw the line?

John Oliver slammed Sinclair on “Last Week Tonight.”

Oliver reported on Sinclair’s local news influence last summer, but dished on the new script-reading requirements on April 1.

You can watch below:

Click here to see if you watch a local news affiliate owned or operated by Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

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Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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