By now, you’ve seen the video montage that Deadspin created, with anchors from dozens of Sinclair Broadcasting Group stations reading the same corporate-issued script. You’ve seen the response from media associations like the National Press Photographers Association (and seen the consequences of that statement), you’ve read the analysis from folks like Al Tompkins at the Poynter Institute.
“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.
By using news time for what is a promo or “public service announcement,” you’re cutting into your service to the community.
(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.
Quality journalism dictates that you identify the source of your information. Neither the source of this script nor evidence of the “troubling trend” are provided.
(B) More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories… stories that just aren’t true, without checking facts first.
Did KOMO review the information this report is based on? Allegedly, Sinclair did a survey – did anyone at KOMO look at the results? Did they look at the methodology? Did they talk to a survey expert about the sample size and composition? Did they ask about any implicit bias in the question structures?
(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.
When one media organization requires all of their stations to run compulsory commentary, with out identifying its corporate source, isn’t that using, “their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda?”
(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.
“Factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility” – that’s a powerful and true statement. But when you do not identify the words coming out of your mouth as being someone else’s, when you do not verify the data upon which those words are based and when you do not identify that these are coming from outside your newsroom, outside your news station and outside your community, you lose that credibility that you claim to need.
(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.
Thank you for watching and we appreciate your feedback”
This is the soft close, this is the, “we’re listening to you but not telling you all we know” finish to make the audience feel good.
Broadcast stations are considered public trustees – because they use airwaves that are owned by all of us, there are certain standards they need to meet, certain obligations they need to fill. As more and more are owned by large corporations (Sinclair currently owns 193 television stations and is in discussions to purchase 40 more), there is a conflict between the public trustee role and the demands of corporate cultures.
Sinclair didn’t cross any legal lines here, but an ethical one has been bridged. Local news organizations should be reflective of and responsible to their local communities. The benefits of corporate ownership should be in taking advantage of scale for business purposes, not in taking advantage of scale to push a political agenda that may not be reflective of the communities.
Having local anchors read a corporate-provided script decrying that, “some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda” is the very epitome of hypocrisy and erodes any credibility those news organizations may have.
So what do we do? As an educator, I advise my students to research the entities that are offering internships and jobs beyond just the basic info of location, market share or pay scales. They need to do a deep dive into the newsroom, the local organization and the corporate philosophy.
More so on the broadcast side than on the print side, journalists may have to sign contracts that stipulate everything from how much they’ll be paid to how they can – or cannot – move-on or quit.
I ask my students to look deeply inside themselves, to see if this corporation is a company they would be proud to represent because it will be their name, their likeness, that will be the public face of that company.
A good working environment and culture will go a very long way to make you both happy and successful. Salary alone doesn’t dictate job satisfaction.
I surround myself with journalists, journalism students and journalism educators by choice because we share a common ethical framework and a deep desire to help our local communities, to ask questions in our local communities and to seek answers in our local communities. I appreciate that working for the University of Georgia gives me access to certain benefits because of the scale of this operation but I also appreciate that I am given the ability to work with and react to my immediate constituents – the students and, by extension, the citizens of the state.
Corporate ownership of news organizations is not inherently evil, corporate dictates that do not reflect local priorities is, though. As a public trustee it is incumbent upon corporate owners to allow local operations to reflect the values and needs of those local consumers.
If they don’t, they are participating in yet another form of propaganda designed to control what people think.