News broke last week that Sinclair Broadcast Group, owners of 193 local news outlets in 89 markets, had its anchors from across the country recite the same scripted anti-print media message on camera.
A video was created by the website Deadspin and included this from the script: "The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media. More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories… stories that just aren’t true, without checking facts first. Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’…This is extremely dangerous to a democracy."
A quick search of the Sinclair website confirms that they do not own any stations here in Arizona. But what does this say for the concept of freedom of the press? Sure, these anchors have a contract with the station to read and report the news. But this scripted statement is squarely in the opinion/editorial category in my view. There is nothing news about it.
I wrote about broadcasters and editorializing back in 2013, long before fake news was mentioned on a daily basis. If a station wants to air opinion pieces, that’s fine. But it really needs to make a clear break between the news of the day and the anchors sharing opinion.
Is this what our news stations are going to be like moving forward? Can station ownership insert their personal agendas into the broadcast? What will happen to on-air talent if they refuse to read the statements?
Look, I’m not that naïve, I know most media outlets have an agenda – some leaning right, some leaning left. I don’t like it, but I get it. But put these personal statements into context; don’t position them as news but rather as opinions.