How local news stations are rebelling against their Sinclair overlords

By Laura Wagner | Deadspin

The workers at Sinclair-owned local news stations want you to know something: They are at least as [angry]as you’d expect them to be about being forced to bow to their fear-mongering corporate overlords, who make them do things like repeat Trumpisms about the fake news media and trade on their hard-won reputations as trusted news sources to push “over-the-top corporate talking points.” They want you to know something else, too: They’re in a tough spot.

Employees at local news stations across the country say it’s frustrating being forced to ignore real local news in favor of propaganda that smears other media outlets (which one employee said was “insulting because they make it seem like this is our point of view”); “terrorism alert desk” segments, described by another employee as “the most race-baity, fake, non-issue ‘news’”; or childish, frothy bits from Sinclair’s Mike Cernovich-approved, “millenial-focused arm,” Circa, which one employee called “beyond offensive” and another described as having “no place in a newscast.” They also say that blanket noncompliance is not an option, and probably never will be.

Since this Deadspin video, which shows dozens of Sinclair anchors reading aloud a bizarre and accusatory script about “biased and false news,” went viral over the weekend, Deadspin has received tips from more than two dozen local news station anchors and people who work in production from all over the country—as well as from people who work in Sinclair’s corporate office—and spoken to nearly a dozen about the small steps they’ve been taking for months to rebel against Sinclair’s efforts to strip local news of its credibility and turn it into, as one person summarized the company’s goal, a “Fox News competitor on basic cable.” The workers—all of who were granted anonymity because they feared retribution if they spoke publicly to the media—describe feeling embarrassed and frustrated by the position their company has put them in, and some feel galvanized to take steps to push back against the company. For its part, Sinclair is increasingly disorganized and disheveled, desperate to keep its employees from talking to the media while its chairman, David Smith, sends unglued email rants to the New York Timesand other outlets.

Production workers, anchors, and executives at Sinclair-owned local news stations, who have diverse political opinions themselves, resent the fiats from Sinclair and strongly believe that editorial control should rest with the journalists who produce the local news reports. As one local news station employee put it, these reports “function as a public good in many small markets around the country, just like garbage collection or road maintenance.”

“Why are we running these stories?”


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April 2018