Last month, news anchors at Sinclair Broadcast Group’s TV stations were required to read a script critical of “fake stories” and general bias by the major news networks. Because some of the phrasing mirrored President Donald Trump’s overcooked critique of liberal media outlets, the story triggered widespread and overwrought warnings about “authoritarianism” and the rise of state-run media.
It’s true that Sinclair, the largest owner of U.S. TV stations, would have been better off following the lead of the big outlets: hiring and working with people who subscribe to the same worldview, then simply letting them do their thing. But as long as we have a media market and inhibit government meddling in speech — thank you, Citizens Unitedand Ajit Pai — the idea that we are powerless to turn away from “propaganda” is nothing but alarmism. Every Sinclair market has an alternative local news station for viewers, not to mention other sources of information consumers can read and listen to if they desire.
Then again, having read the panicky coverage before watching the Sinclair videos, I was surprised by the innocuousness of the spots. The anchors were plainly reading a scripted public service announcement that claimed there was a “troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories” at major news outlets, then offering themselves as an alternative.
They then cautioned viewers to avoid the “sharing of biased and false news” on social media, which is, I am often told, a plague on democracy. “But we are human and sometimes our reporting might fall short,” the script goes on to say. “If you believe our coverage is unfair, please reach out to us.”
The rhetoric was a less-sanctimonious version of CNN’s “apples and bananas” spot from a few months ago—another finger-wagging aimed at political foes and competitors. It’s clear that the oversized reaction to the Sinclair script is because it flaunted the wrong bias.
Another peculiar complaint about the Sinclair spots is that local anchors were being “forced” — a word widely used by those reporting on the incident — to read opinions they did not share. “I felt like a POW recording a message,” one aggrieved news-reader told CNN. As a writer, I can sympathize with people being asked to say things that undermine their beliefs. In truth, though, no one can force you to say or write anything. If you find the words “fake” and “news” morally and professionally objectionable, quit.
The concept of free will has little part in any of our national conversations these days. You’d think that Russiabots, Facebook posts, and local news anchors all have the preternatural ability to burrow into your brain and make your choices for you.
CNN’s senior media correspondent Brian Stelter went as far as to claim that viewers were being “force fed” the Sinclair viewpoint, which would mean that every time an outlet is “leaning forward” or telling us that “democracy dies in darkness” or lecturing us about “fake news,” they too are force-feeding consumers their partisan talking points. (The only instance of force-feeding that comes to mind, incidentally, is CNN’s ubiquitous presence in airports, where travelers are stuck and without any choice.)
Considering the often sycophantic treatment the previous administration received from major news outlets, it’s difficult to take those acting appalled very seriously. In fact, those who act most disturbed are in part responsible for the rise of openly partisan journalism. That’s because in many ways politically motivated news is as much a market reaction as an ideological one.
Sad I can never remember unbiased news. Today it is much worse, rampant repetition of unfounded propaganda, pushing of agenda, even on things that are easily fact checked.
Perhaps Sinclair feels the change blowing in the wind, the un-named sources they touted and spun their tales around are dropping like flies some may soon to be prosecuted.
Is this their explanation for why they will not report the facts in news? If the facts are not ideologically pleasing to them, they are allowed to simply change those facts or not report them at all. If this bothers them so much, they need to find another line of work.
The Sinclair story is about a pro-Trump propaganda network with current access to 40 percent of all American households, that required its newscasters to read scripted, politically motivated lies disguised as legitimate news stories.
They’re currently petitioning the Trump administration’s New and Improved FCC to approve a corporate merger that would expand their access to 72 percent of all American households.
It’s not about having a political lean that goes one way or the other. It’s about promoting flat out lies as if they were factual truth. There’s a very big difference. If you don’t know what’s true, you don’t know what’s real.
What are you saying; that you liberals only respect the newscasters that make the stories up as they go, like Williams, Tapper and Ross?
I’m saying Sinclair propagandists are attempting to construct a false alternate reality to serve someone’s political agenda. We know this because they’ve been caught doing it.
The Trump administration has little regard for truth. They say whatever they deem to be useful, and condemn anyone who disagrees as liars. It’s what they do in business and it’s what they’ve brought to government. Their only concerns have to do with what they think they can get away with. Ethics doesn’t enter in.
They haven’t been caught doing anything except for issuing a statement pledging not to follow in the CNN/MSNBC/ABC/CBS/NBC footsteps and report false news. So, in YOUR world, those who eschew propaganda are the propagandists?
Trump is the absolute opposite of the lying Obama administration that had the media to cover for their lies. The fact that you can’t accept that after all the Obama, Hillary and media lies that have been exposed only indicates you LIKE lies and liars.
@Greg: Sinclair has a collection of local news networks, it is not a cable corporate outlet.
They can lose their license for not serving their community. Do not all news casters read from scripts given to them from an editor? The cable outlets got their panties in a wad assuming Sinclair declared they were the fakes not vetting sources. Do you think your local on air news is right wing biased they are most likely owned by Sinclair, watch them for a week and then make up your mind.
There is a nice chart for you on this page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_stations_owned_or_operated_by_Sinclair_Broadcast_Group
@kitt: Greg always finds an irrelevant side to argue.
@Deplorable Me, #6:
Fox’s Shep Smith fact-checks Trump’s Amazon claims: ‘None of that was true’
As in, it was all a load of manure. And it’s constant, day in and day out, about anything and everything. How can anyone not see this?
If they can’t, what else that seems perfectly obvious might they be missing?
@Greg: I repeat, Obama lied about Obamacare, Fast and Furious, the IRS targeting, “stimulus”, Benghazi, Iran, Syria, Iraq, gun control, national security, FBI investigations, Hillary being a competent candidate and anything else he addressed. Obama is a tremendous liar. Worrying about any inaccuracy of Trump is crybaby, sore loser hypocrisy.
@Greg: Obama never made errors in his public statements?
Isis was a JV team? Everything he said about AHCA?
We can say both Presidents made inaccurate statements.
Did you watch your horribly bias local news broadcast? Remember to contact and point it out to them.
It will be interesting to see if Trump’s compulsive lying can be put on temporary hold if he’s questioned under oath in connection with the Mueller investigation.
@Greg: Perhaps it should be Obama under questioning as to what he knew of an illegal spying operation, lying to FISA court or a Hillary skate party and if he ordered it all.
Nunes ran to the closed system at the White House for a reason, records only kept there.
Maybe Obamas Chicago style politics will put him where the Governors of Illinois end up.
@kitt: I wonder when Obama is going to visit all 57 states now that he has more time?
@Randy: I know one he can skip, if it is up to me. Hillary skipped it. 😉
It’ll be more interesting to see if the left can put their dishonesty and corruption on hold long enough to conduct a proper interview. More than likely they are constructing a setup like they did Flynn, which I doubt Trump will fall for.
Pity this little scheme of yours is falling apart, isn’t it?
I have a feeling old Honest Obama’s time is coming soon. Then, instead of the consistent cooperation and openness we have seen from all those questioned in this case we will once again see the lying, stonewalling and 5th pleading that characterized the investigations of Obama’s operations.
@Deplorable Me: Obama has been quite quiet lately, hasn’t he? Probably trying to save his strength so he can throw more people under the bus.