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Opinion The real problem with Sinclair’s ‘fake’ news script

Boris Epshteyn in the White House briefing room on Feb. 7, 2017. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Sinclair Broadcast Group is in something of a bind. It wants to run an ideologically driven media outlet; it wants its 173 local TV stations to parrot its conservative pro-Trump corporate view; it wants uniformity. To accomplish all that, however, it must issue dictates.

That straightforward dynamic explains why the company is all over cable news on Monday: It recently sent a script to its stations with instruction to run it — in the words of local anchors. How did that play out? Just ask Deadspin, which put together a compilation video of just how the party line plays out in television markets across this great land. Exactly the same, that is.

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Have a look:

Commentators are chewing over a number of questions raised by the “must-run” segment. What does it mean for the journalists in the Sinclair markets? Must they really say this stuff as if they mean it? To judge from Deadspin’s mash-up, um, yes. What does it mean for Sinclair’s planned merger with Tribune, a transaction under review by the federal government that would put Sinclair’s total station count over 200? Too much power? And what about the affinity between Sinclair and President Trump, whose loyalists do commentary on Sinclair’s air? The president recently tweeted:

All these threads are very much worth pursuing, yet let’s please not overlook the degree to which this script is a piece of garbage on its own terms. Here it is, via, with bolded commentary from the Erik Wemple Blog:

“Hi, I’m(A) ____________, and I’m (B) _________________…
(B) Our greatest responsibility is to serve our Northwest communities. [And yet we’ll now proceed to obsess over the work of the national news media.] 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. [We will provide no examples to illuminate this plague, but you know what we mean.]
(B) More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories … stories that just aren’t true, without checking facts first. [Bogus reporting has been part of journalism since journalism was born, but we won’t provide data or examples to illuminate why this bears pointing out in April 2018.]
(A) Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think.’ [Random and nonsensical quotation marks are a mainstay of the Trump era.] … This is extremely dangerous to a democracy. [Right — as is an unsupported, evidence-free slam against the country’s press.]
(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. [And it’s why we snatched up Chief Political Analyst Boris Epshteyn fresh off his stint in the Trump White House!]
(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 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.”

So: An editorial with no supporting evidence, no data, no argumentative beef. One hundred percent innuendo. No wonder Sinclair employees are freaking out about the thing.

To test the company’s commitment to responding to its audience, the Erik Wemple Blog asked the folks at KATU in Portland, Ore., for some examples of this scourge. We will post any feedback that we receive.