Z on TV Critic David Zurawik writes about the business and culture of TV

Video of Sinclair anchors voicing same script about fake news goes viral

Deadspin published a montage this weekend of Sinclair anchors at stations across the country reading a centrally scripted message about fake news, and it’s gone viral.

The video is so skillfully done that it needs virtually no words.

But let me give you just a little context and background — along with reaction today from a Sinclair news executive.

The promo is presented as a message from your friendly, concerned local anchors about “the sharing of biased and false news.”

You can judge for yourself what it might really be about. Deadspin headlined its post: “How America's Largest Local TV Owner Turned Its News Anchors Into Soldiers In Trump's War On The Media.”

On March 7, CNN’s Brian Stelter was the first to report on a script for the promotional messages being sent to Sinclair’s 193 stations — a pending merger with Tribune could bring that number as high as 233.

Stelter’s story at CNN Money ran under the headline: “Sinclair’s new media-bashing promos rankle local anchors.” Stelter included sample portions of the script, which featured anchors saying they and their stations were concerned about “the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country.”

Stelter and others like Deadspin have read the promotional message as a statement of support for President Trump’s attacks on mainstream media outlets that criticize him.

“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,” the anchors say. “This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.”

Scott Livingston, senior vice president of news for Hunt Valley-based Sinclair, said the goal of the messages was to reiterate Sinclair’s “commitment to reporting facts.”

“The stories we are referencing in this promo are the unsubstantiated ones (i.e. fake/false) like ‘Pope Endorses Trump’ which move quickly across social media and result in an ill-informed public,” he wrote in an email response to the Sun.

“Some other false stories, like the fake ‘Pizzagate’ story, can result in dangerous consequences,” he continued. “We are focused on fact-based reporting. That's our commitment to our communities. That’s the goal of these announcements: to reiterate our commitment to reporting facts in a pursuit of truth. We consider it our honor and privilege to deliver the news each night. We seek the truth and strive to be fair.”

In October, I wrote a column headlined, “Sinclair bid to be biggest could also make it most hated TV company in America.”

After seeing the response to the Deadspin montage, I am thinking maybe “most reviled TV company in America” might be more apt.

Host Brian Stelter and I discussed the montage of Sinclair anchors on “Reliable Sources” today. See it here.

david.zurawik@baltsun.com

twitter.com/davidzurawik

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