The news release from Sinclair Broadcast Group’s Circa website speaks of “moving forward,” launching an app and securing news feeds from the company’s national news desk in D.C. What it doesn’t mention: Seven staffers at the company have lost their jobs, well-placed sources have told the Erik Wemple blog.
Circa is a general national news site — with verticals including politics, nation, “Whoa,” along with lifestyle and entertainment selections — that lives under the umbrella of Sinclair, a company best known for its nationwide chain of local TV stations. The Circa brand was originally a mobile news app that provided users iterative updates on breaking news stories — an innovation that didn’t quite make it. Late in 2015, Sinclair bought Circa’s domain name and social media assets, proceeding to relaunch the site in July 2016. John Solomon, who had formerly served as one of the top executives at the Washington Times, piloted the relaunch with ambitions of hiring about 70 staffers.
Aligning itself with the generally right-leaning bent of Sinclair’s television stations, Circa under Solomon’s direction had a distinctly ideological feel, pioneering a certain symbiosis with Fox News host Sean Hannity. As Laura Hazard Owen wrote in a Nieman Lab piece, then-Circa staffer Sara Carter appeared on “Hannity” more than 30 times over several months during 2017 alone. One of their widely-circulated pieces suggested a news-breaking look at some misfeasance by the Obama administration. It had already been covered, though.
Then the Solomon experiment ended, abruptly, in July 2017, when he jumped to The Hill to serve as executive vice president of digital video. Since then, the site has carried on under the direction of Manny Fantis.
The layoffs speak, of course, to the difficulty of making money as a news site, as well as to the efficiency of consolidation. “Circa will now be able to capitalize on breaking news stories from Sinclair’s National News Desk in Washington D.C., by combining resources to expand the depth and breadth of national coverage. In addition, Circa will be evolving to take advantage of the breaking content from the more than 70 local Sinclair newsrooms from across the country. Circa will have immediate access to more unique and compelling news stories that can be easily aggregated and fed to all consumer platforms,” notes the company’s news release.
Already the largest owner of television stations in the country, Sinclair would grow even bigger with the pending acquisition of Tribune Media, which would bump its station count from roughly 200 to 233. Federal Communications Commission approval is required, and the company would likely have to shed some of its licenses as part of the process.