One of the most important aspects a television viewer can expect from his or her local news broadcasts is trust. Trust from the anchorpeople who will provide the viewer with the news. News as free from bias or slant as is possible.
Over the weekend, a video clip showing the newscasters and anchorpeople at Sinclair Broadcasting’s owned television stations performing a “must read” about how their stations’ news is fair, and that other news outlets – including social media and other non-Sinclair-based stations – are providing fraudulent news.
It was discomforting to watch. And as I watched the video, hoping against hope that I wouldn’t see any broadcasters from Sinclair’s local station, WRGB … there she was. At 1:11 of this video clip.
Yep… right here. Talking about a threat to democracy.
Yep. Liz Bishop, the longtime veteran anchor for WRGB.
Ugh. And in that moment, I realized something sad.
The objectivity of WRGB as a news outlet just went out the window and down the street.
Here’s what’s going on. All of Sinclair Broadcasting’s news outlets are required to announce “must-read” editorials and commentary as the parent company sees fit. The script is mandatory, you simply insert your newscaster’s name, the local station, and what you want them to say.
And as you can see by the video embedded above, all of Sinclair’s team are required to read these announcements as necessary. Sinclair stations also have segments on ‘Terrorist Alerts,” as well as commentary on Sinclair’s Circa network – including commentator Lara Trump.
Yeah, she’s married to one of them, it’s either Donald Jr. or Eric. I lose track.
So what does the Sinclair message mean? It means, as far as I’m concerned, that they are using their trusted anchor people – the ones that appear in such broadcasting campaigns as “here for you” and “we’re on your side” and “news you can trust” and all those other homilies – and, with that must-read statement, weaponized that trust into commentary at best, editorial at least, propaganda at worst.
And the strange thing is… this happens in media all the time. News is not 100% straight and balanced. There are subtle opinions and manipulations in the broadcast or in the print. Did an employee from a major sponsor get caught in a DUI? Did a county executive take a kickback from a car dealership that he insists was a loan? Where is the focus and where is the bias?
Now I’m not saying, and please understand this, that Liz Bishop has become the 2018 equivalent of Tokyo Rose. What I am saying, however, is that if you did not know that this was a “make read” announcement from Sinclair, you would assume that Liz Bishop wrote that statement herself and read it on the air herself.
A similar example of why this bothers me involves when bloggers receive promotional items from companies. Let’s say a blogger received two tickets to ride on, for example, a holiday Christmas train. You don’t suppose that blogger might turn around and write a favorable piece about riding that holiday Christmas train, with the assumption that the blogger’s readership might not realize that the piece was essentially paid for by an outside interest?
Trust me, I’ve seen what happens when you piss off your corporate overlords. I quit the Times Union blog farm because of too many issues involving Big Hearst. So I understand that Liz Bishop is just doing her job as a news anchor for the company that bought WRGB from Freedom Communications so many years ago.
But now that I know that Liz Bishop is more than willing to read a statement that works ONLY if nobody else knows that the same statement was fed to seven dozen other Sinclair stations around the nation… then I know that I can not trust WRGB’s newscasts. Are the words coming out of their mouths at Channel 6 their own, or were they placed there by their corporate parents, for whatever surreptitious reason they may so choose.
This is sad. WRGB was the station I grew up with. The station of Ernie Tetreault and Ed Dague, of Bob McNamara and Howard Tupper, of TV Tournament Time and Pick-A-Show and, yes, Answers Please.
But now, it’s just another shill corporate puppet from Sinclair.
If I want local news from now on, I’ll watch WTEN or WXXA or WNYT or Spectrum News.
Because as long as Sinclair Broadcasting owns WRGB…
I can’t trust that what they call “local news” really came from the local area.
Maybe we were always at war with Eurasia after all…