Wed, Apr 04, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Sinclair stations’ messaging hit by video

RUSSIA COMPARISON:One critic said the uniform script read by dozens of anchors was like ‘something we would mock the Russians for doing during the days of Pravda’


A video with dozens of news anchors reading a script about “fake stories” put in stark visual terms what for weeks had largely been an academic debate about media consolidation in the US and the Sinclair Broadcast Group’s efforts to promote a consistent message across its stations.

The 98-second video, posted on Saturday on Deadspin, has already been viewed by millions of people and provoked a tweet by US President Donald Trump on Monday supporting the corporation.

Sinclair owns nearly 200 local stations in the US and had ordered its anchors to read a statement expressing concern about “the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing the country.”

Some outlets publish these “fake stories” without checking facts first and some people in the media push their own biases, the statement said.

The anchors give no specific examples.

Sinclair, whose corporate leadership leans right, uses terminology familiar to Trump and his criticisms of “fake news.”

In the message, the anchors say they “work very hard to seek the truth and strive to be fair, balanced and factual.”

Timothy Burke, a video editor at Deadspin, said he read a CNN story last month about the script being sent to local stations and contacted a media monitoring service to collect examples of the statement being read on the air.

After receiving more than 50, he fashioned them into a video that shows anchors reading different portions of the text, either simultaneously or one after the other.

He posted a “teaser” on Friday night with a small portion of the video and it quickly attracted attention when tweeted by a Wisconsin journalism professor.

Not wanting to see his work appropriated by someone else, Burke said he rushed to get the full video posted on Saturday afternoon.

It spread quickly, particularly when tweeted by celebrities such as Judd Apatow and Jimmy Kimmel.

The video’s repetition illustrates Sinclair’s reach in a way mere numbers cannot, said Jeff Jarvis, a journalism professor at the City University of New York.

“That’s what makes the video so powerful,” he said. “It illustrates a story that in some cases can read like a conspiracy theory. You can see by the video that it’s not.”

A Sinclair executive on Monday said that he found it curious that the company would be attacked for asking news people to remind the audience that unsubstantiated stories exist on social media.

“It is ironic that we would be attacked for messages promoting our journalistic initiative for fair and objective reporting, and for specifically asking the public to hold our newsrooms accountable,” Sinclair senior vice president of news Scott Livingston said. “Our local stations keep our audiences’ trust by staying focused on fact-based reporting and clearly identifying commentary.”

After the story was reported on Monday on CNN and MSNBC, Trump jumped to Sinclair’s defense.

“Funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticizing Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased,” he tweeted. “Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke.”

MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Monday did a lengthy segment on Burke’s Deadspin video, showing the words being repeated by several anchors.

Cohost Mika Brzezinski said she was surprised some of the local anchors didn’t refuse to read it.

This story has been viewed 1419 times.

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