Accuracy in Media

Sinclair stations that aired scripted remarks about fake news and invited viewers to provide feedback if they saw the station engaged in such should have defied their bosses and refused to tape the segments, according to some mainstream media journalists.

Andrew Champagne, who is from Albany, N.Y., but is now a horse racing writer based in Los Angeles, according to his Twitter page, went to the trouble of writing to the local Sinclair-owned station to chide its management for ordering the segment.

“Hello, I am a former resident of the Albany area and worked in the local media for several years, first as a member of the Siena College athletic communications office and then as a sportswriter for the Saratogian. I have since moved out of state, but I keep abreast of what is happening in my old hometown, and this is why I am writing to you today,” Champagne wrote.

“I was extremely disappointed (and, frankly, terrified) to find out that WRGB was one of the stations that aired a scripted piece written by corporate overlords at Sinclair Broadcasting on its newscast several nights ago. I had a great deal of respect for WRGB prior to this decision, and I am saddened to say that this has taken a significant hit. As a journalist with values learned and displayed over a career that has taken me to national media outlets, I believe propaganda like what Liz Bishop was forced to utter has no place on a local newscast. Regardless of orders that came from within Sinclair Broadcasting, the decision to air this rhetoric was the wrong one.

“WRGB has enjoyed a strong reputation in the community for covering local news and doing it wlel. I strongly urge those in charge to revisit those priorities, rather than allow this thinly veiled fear-mongering on its airwaves again in the future.”

So, a horse racing writer in Los Angeles suggests employees at a station he used to watch years ago lose their jobs by defying their bosses because he believes “propaganda like what Liz Bishop was forced to utter has no place on a local newscast … regardless of orders that came from within Sinclair Broadcasting.”

At Vox, Dylan Matthews said he is concerned Sinclair stations’ “strong partisan tilt” is not “enacted as a strategy to win more viewers but as part of a persuasion effort.” The same could be argued for CNN, which is now a distant third in the cable news ratings but continues to pursue the hard-left strategy that got it there.

Matthews cited academics who say Sinclair costs itself viewers by shifting the focus of the local news programs on the stations it buys to include more nationally focused news, including commentaries by conservatives, such as former Trump White House aid Boris Epshteyn, who is Sinclair’s chief political analyst.

But if it’s hurting Sinclair, the pain is not yet showing up on the bottom line. The company owns 193 stations and serves 40 percent of the American market. It is in negotiations to buy the Tribune media empire, which would give it control over 42 more stations, as well as some newspapers, and provide Sinclair access to 72 percent of American homes.

In fact, it is expanding so quickly the communications giant must sell some stations to stay below the Federal Communications Commission’s requirement that TV stations reach no more than 39 percent of the U.S. households with TVs.

And here lies the real danger, according to Matthews.

“Unlike Fox News, Sinclair programming comes to people on local TV, on channels affiliated with ABC or NBC or CBS or Fox, many of which have existed in their communities for decades before Sinclair bought them. Millions of viewers of those stations have no idea that they’re watching conservative editorials rather than normal local news, which gives Sinclair incredible power to persuade viewers of conservative ideas.”

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