Public trust must remain

Published 7:44 am Friday, April 6, 2018

In the past week, a video has gone viral on social media and many news shows.

It depicts television anchors reading a script about the dangers of “biased” and “fake” news, and the text seems, at first glance, to be harmless enough.

However, as the video continues, it reveals the same script is being read, word for word, by dozens of anchors across the many TV stations in the U.S. owned by Sinclair Broadcasting.

The script is the latest of many centralized content pushes by the media conglomerate, which owns half of the television stations in our Tri-State area, shoved on local affiliates as “must run” segments.

Sinclair has attracted considerable controversy in recent months with their push to eliminate laws mandating local TV stations to have a physical presence in their market, as well as their plans to buy up a large amount of stations currently owned by Tribune Media.

The script, read on air in the last few weeks, has drawn the ire of many critics, including veteran journalists.

Famed Cincinnati-area newsman Nick Clooney, who was already well known in Ohio before his famous son arrived in Hollywood, was asked about the controversy by the Cincinnati Enquirer.

“I have no idea what these folks are doing for a living, but it isn’t news,” he told the paper.

Clooney pointed out that, not only was there no indication that the content had no local origin, but, in the past, anchors were not the ones who read editorials, a duty that typically went to station owners or management.

Despite Sinclair’s claims of concern of bias in the news, the company has been the center of controversy over the years for its injecting of content, created at its corporate headquarters in Baltimore, which many say is heavily slanted to the station owner’s politics.

Also troubling in this affair is the continuing decline of localism in news, with content and production decisions being taken out of the host cities and decided by executives several states away.

However, if Sinclair wants to editorialize, then commentary should be clearly marked as such and local journalists and anchors should not have to risk sacrificing the trust they have built with audiences by being mandated to delivers such statements as their own.