Sinclair Broadcasting slammed for forcing anchors to recite anti-fake-news 'script'

Sinclair Broadcasting slammed for forcing anchors to recite anti-fake-news 'script'”

In the wake of the controversy surrounding Sinclair Broadcasting for forcing their local news anchors to read from a script about "biased and false news", which is basically repeating talking (err, screaming) points from President Trump, many are questioning why the these journalists don't just quit.

Sinclair Broadcast Group is battling back against mounting criticism of its company-wide directive for news anchors at its stations to warn viewers about the prevalence of unsubstantiated news reports spread via social media.

Sinclair's presence in local news is of interest especially because more people still get their news from local television stations than from any other source.

McGrath cited a viral video from Deadspin that splices together clips of local news anchors at Sinclair-owned stations all reading from the same script decrying "fake stories" in the press and online. The message, echoing President Donald Trump's cries of "fake news", has been criticized on cable news, and even some of Sinclair's anchors, who feel compelled to read it, possibly due to their contracts.

KMPH (which is owned by Sinclair) last month deferred comment on the campaign to Scott Livingston, Sinclair's senior vice president of news, who called reports "an attempt to create a story where none exist". "Our local stations keep our audiences' trust by staying focused on fact-based reporting and clearly identifying commentary". While almost every Sinclair owned station has opted-out of responding directly, this morning the station in Madison, Wisconsin announced it did not air a recent Sinclair must-read script, saying it "stayed true to our commitment" to viewers.

Kirstin Pellizzaro, a former producer for a Sinclair-owned news station in MI, told the New York Times "I hope people realize that the journalists are trying their best, and this shouldn't reflect poorly on them. More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories ... stories that just aren't true, without checking facts first". "This is extremely unsafe to a democracy", the script said.

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The problem is, Sinclair represents an intense concentration of news markets in the hands of one company, and its trying to grow even larger.

"Disgusted", is how one newsroom employee at WJLA, Sinclair's flagship station in Washington, summed up the internal reaction on Monday. It owns or operations about 200 stations already and is in the process of buying Tribune Media Company for $3.9 billion.

But those talks fizzled, and every anchor at the station eventually recorded versions of the segment, like at most other Sinclair stations across the country.

It is understood that numerous anchors forced to read the script felt uncomfortable doing so. "I felt like a POW recording a message", one anchor said. The broadcaster has said in the past that it offered similar coverage opportunities to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Republicans say change was overdue for the outmoded restrictions.

Sinclair Broadcast Group has a conservative, pro-Trump bent, and it is quickly becoming one of the most powerful players in mainstream media.

Lots of local news reporters have complained about the script. Sinclair also gave instructions on what outfits to wear while reading it in order to project neutrality and a strict mandate that any response from local audience members should be engaged with by Sinclair, not the local station. Sinclair's WJLA pursued the Rich story avidly; it reported past year that an amateur investigative group funded by a GOP lobbyist found that it was likely a "hired killer" had murdered Rich. Police maintain Rich was killed in a botched robbery.

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