It takes a little time to read about the ways the Sinclair Broadcast Group is using its vast portfolio of local television stations to pump poison into the brains of local news viewers. It takes less time to watch John Oliver explain it with illustrative video clips, but it’s still a bit of a commitment. But if you only have eleven seconds and still want to understand what Sinclair Broadcast Group is doing to the country, this tweet from Deadspin writer Timothy Burke makes it all crystal clear:
That’s a montage of local news anchors repeating, word for word, an editorial Sinclair Broadcast Group required all of its stations—and it owns nearly 200—to air. This isn’t new for Sinclair: In the final days of the 2004 election, all Sinclair stations had to run an hour-long program attacking John Kerry’s service in Vietnam. (The company fired their Washington bureau chief for pointing out this was bullshit.) But although Sinclair normally gets a pundit like Boris Epshteyn say the actual words, this time they forced their local news anchors to play Charlie McCarthy.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer published the complete script for Seattle’s KOMO TV (an ABC affiliate), and, as the video makes clear, every Sinclair media market was served exactly the same plate of garbage. The script seems to be designed to encourage the audience not to believe the bad, true things journalists are reporting about President Trump, which is, to steal a phrase, extremely dangerous to our democracy. Here’s the text, complete with idiosyncratic use of quotation marks:
Hi, I’m(A) ____________, and I’m (B) _________________…
(B) Our greatest responsibility is to serve our Northwest communities. We are extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that KOMO News produces.
(A) 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.
(B) More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories … stories that just aren’t true, without checking facts first.
(A) 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.
(B) 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.
(A) 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 KOMOnews.com and clicking on CONTENT CONCERNS. We value your comments. We will respond back to you.
(B) 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.
(A) Thank you for watching and we appreciate your feedback.
If you know someone who relies on local news from a Sinclair station, it’s probably worth taking eleven seconds of their time to show them what they’re watching. Depending on how well you know them, maybe steal a minute and thirty-eight seconds for the entire video on Deadspin, which is even more horrifying. It might not make any difference, but at least they can never say they weren’t told. As for the news anchors who pretended these words and opinions were their own, they can keep calling themselves journalists if they want, but no one else should feel obligated.