The following is a news opinion and analysis.[hr]
[dropcap]If[/dropcap] you watched the mash-up of Sinclair station anchors reading their national promo and were convinced it was something evil and nefarious, you’ve been hoodwinked.
A few of you asked for my view on this continuing propaganda campaign put together by certain political interests and Sinclair’s competitors, as Sinclair seeks to close on a deal to buy Tribune companies.
From what I can tell, this issue breaks down along ideological lines, and minds are not likely to be swayed. My friends on the far left are convinced that Sinclair anchors reading a national promo is Hitler-esque Orwellian brainwashing. My friends on the far right are happy and hopeful that Sinclair might, indeed, be pushing conservative views. Those in the middle don’t care or seem to think it’s much ado about nothing.
[dropcap]There’s[/dropcap] legitimate debate to be heard on many topics surrounding media fairness and consolidation. It's obviously perfectly fine for you to disagree, but I find nothing to argue with in the nonpartisan, national Sinclair promos at issue. (The text is printed at the end of this article. You can decide for yourself.) In fact, I’ve heard many conservatives and liberals alike make these same points: That we have a problem with one-sided, false and biased news; that some reporters are pushing agendas; and that untrue stories are being published without proper fact checks. These assertions are pretty indisputable, wherever you sit.
The promos go on to say that Sinclair stations are committed to factual reporting neither “left nor right.” The anchors were even instructed not to wear blue or red, lest the colors be incorrectly interpreted as politically-charged in today’s environment. Somehow, this was portrayed by leftists as "Turning news anchors into soldiers for Trump's war on the media." They're saying that the idea of news that's fair, accurate and neither left nor right --is a right-wing idea. It's all the more ironic considering that it was left wing interests who invented the anti-"Fake News" campaign, as I reported in my TEDx talk and The Smear. Yet, here, the same interests oppose the notion of a stated, corporatewide commitment to fair, accurate reporting.
Those who disagree with this approach appear to be indicating they prefer to receive biased news. And that may be the real issue here: Many people do.
[dropcap]As[/dropcap] for the idea that it’s “brainwashing” or weird for a national company to have a promotional campaign that sets forth its mission statement, I think of the promos I did when working at local CBS stations in concert with the annual CBS promo campaigns. The network provided us wording and themes so that we could coordinate our local promotional campaigns with the national effort. One campaign, for example, was “Experience You Can Trust”.
When I worked at WTVT-TV in Tampa --then a CBS affiliate-- the network flew national anchor Dan Rather down to Florida and arranged for me to interview him on my local noon program. The tour was to promote Dan and the national CBS Evening News. The particular promotional campaign was built to emphasize Dan's field chops compared to his competitors, so he spoke of that in his appearance with me and at other local stations on his tour.
Since at least the 1980s, national anchors for the networks have routinely appeared and delivered scripted wording alongside local anchors in promos to run on local stations, such as the examples below for NBC and Telemundo. (As a local station group, Sinclair doesn't have a daily national newscast with an anchor to co-promote the news. Thus, the local Sinclair anchors did the promotions without a national nightly news anchor sitting beside them.)[hr]NBC "Journalism Makes a Difference" promotion 1981: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yVoMovhYxc
Telemundo promotion with local news anchors: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYninFYyJCc
CBC "Facts Matter" promotion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6aAZPJHXEpQ[hr]Today, national network morning anchors appear each day on local affiliate news programs-- during actual local newscasts-- doing a "round robin" of promos with similar wording one right after another. All of us who do Sunday news programs promote the weekly topics on our stations or affiliates by doing "talkbacks" with the local anchors.[hr]
[hr]One could edit together all of these ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and Telemundo promos on various local stations showing the same wording and, I suppose, try to present them as nefarious brainwashing — but the interests behind the Sinclair mashup apparently aren’t inclined to do that with other outlets.
You may have seen another famous local news mashup of identical wording as edited by comedy program Conan O'Brien. A lot of people aren't aware, but local stations often receive news stories from their station groups, networks or the network "affiliate services." This is part of the reason for the national-local relationship; the local stations receive news content. When the various stations around the country use the same stories and they are edited together, it is, indeed, very entertaining! But it's not reflective, in my view, of any sort of mind control.
[dropcap]Besides[/dropcap] Sinclair's competitors being worried about Sinclair's pending expansion, I suspect what is really upsetting liberals is the conservative bend of Sinclair's ownership. Most of my career, I worked for national news outlets powered by liberal billionaire interests (CBS and CNN). I also worked for PBS. For the most part, the liberal ownership/management didn't impact my work whether I reported on stories that some partisans would probably consider liberal or others they would call conservative. And to date Sinclair's conservative ownership hasn't impacted my work at Full Measure as I've reported on a wide variety of topics that (again) partisans looking for labels might call liberal or conservative. But the landscape when it comes to bias in news has shifted dramatically in the past couple of years and there are certainly worthy issues to debate in terms of who-owns-what and the influences -- especially hidden influences -- at play. It's a net win when the public at large and we, as news employees, pay attention and ask questions.
The more worrisome trends (to me) are when national news personnel censor entire themes or viewpoints, shape stories in ways that aren't reflective of the facts, bend to the will corporate advertisers, layer news stories with reporters' opinions and biases, uncritically use talking points du jour from political and corporate interests, report unsubstantiated and sometimes false information, and use "consultants" without disclosing their conflicts of interest. I've written extensively about how I believe these conflicts have woven their way into many national newsrooms.
Lastly, as a noted propagandist told me for my book The Smear, “Nearly every theme or image that crosses your path in daily life was put there for a reason, often by an interest who paid a lot of money to place it there.” I counsel people to ask—Who wants me to believe this and why? In the case of the Sinclair mashup, a critical thinker might ask—in whose interest is it to present the Sinclair promos in a one-sided and negative light?
Who wants me to believe it and why?
Who’s really trying to do the “brianwashing"?
Think for yourself.[hr]
Sinclair Promo Text example from KOMO in Seattle
Our greatest responsibility is to serve our Northwest communities. We are extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that KOMO News produces.
But we’re concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country. 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.
At KOMO it’s our responsibility to pursue and report the truth. We understand Truth is neither politically ‘left nor right.’ Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.
But we are human and sometimes our reporting might fall short. If you believe our coverage is unfair please reach out to us by going to (feedback reference).
We value your comments. We will respond back to you.
We work very hard to seek the truth and strive to be fair, balanced and factual… We consider it our honor, our privilege to responsibly deliver the news every day.
Thank you for watching and we appreciate your feedback.[hr]