By Beth David, Editor
So, last week I mentioned the news that Sinclair Broadcasting ordered all outlets to read the same thing about fake news… oh, the irony!
People have been going back and forth about how the anchors were given an order and they had to do it or lose their jobs. Yeah, no one wants to get fired. But reading a script from corporate is not exactly what journalists sign up for, is it? Besides the fact that the script actually trashed their own profession (let the shrinks have at it on that one), the thing they were forced to read was an opinion piece.
That’s not news.
Now, if an editorial suit from corporate read it and they ran it, that would still be a little creepy, but at least it would be honest. It would be an opinion, labeled as such, and it would also give the audience some insight into the philosophy of the corporation behind the station. That’s okay with me. WCVB runs editorials all the time. I kind of like them. But, I know what they are.
I think it would probably be okay, too, if corporate told the individual stations to be sure to do a story on the proliferation of fake news. It is, after all, a real thing (yup, I just said fake news is a real thing….I know, I know). It is something that could reasonably be expected to be covered and explored. But each station should be allowed to cover it in its own way, using local examples, of, maybe, how specific stories got distorted.
They should cover it as a news story, not an ideological pitch, word for word, from corporate. I doubt very much those broadcast journalists went into the business thinking they would be handed a script that did not originate from a news item or source, and be expected to read it on air, spouting off someone else’s opinion. That’s not what independent journalists do, that’s what actors do.
President Trump thinks Sinclair is great, and he loved the idea.
Of course, it’s part of his wish to make all our institutions a joke. From appointing people to posts in agencies they are openly hostile to, to simply rejecting anything he doesn’t like as false, this president is embarking on a dangerous campaign to render all our institutions, all the things that make us who we are, useless.
What happens when nobody believes anything anymore?
We end up like those crazy countries we all make fun of, the ones where there is no rule of law because nobody believes in anybody’s authority.
Am I saying that all our institutions are perfect and should never be questioned? Of coure not. We have a duty to question. That is our birthright as Americans. But there’s a difference between public or journalistic scrutiny and a concerted effort by the office of the president to undermine the very agencies he is supposed to be using to keep our democracy strong. You don’t do that by treating them all like they’re a joke. You do that by making them better.
I remember a time when you looked to the National Institutes of Health, the Center for Diesease Control, the Environmental Protection Agency for info you could trust. Now, the Trump administration is turning them all into a laughingstock, removing science-based information from websites, understaffing agencies, cutting budgets to the point that they can barely function.
These agencies may need reform, sure. Then shore them up, make them better, don’t gut them and make them irrelevant. These regulations he is so eager to get rid of were put in place for a reason.
We have clean water, clean air, because of the EPA, don’t destroy it; we have (or had) national parks that were the envy of the world, don’t let industries destroy them or price regular Americans out of them; we have an education system that puts every child in school, and that benefits the whole community, we shouldn’t be taking money out of the system to go to private schools; our system for veteran care is good, not bad, we should be making it better, not taking money away from it to give to for-profit entities; the list goes on.
Don’t turn us into a Banana Republic.
Journalists should be resisting these attempts, not aiding and abetting.
Oh, did I forget to mention that Sinclair is trying to get government approval to almost double in size? If approved, they would reach 70% of households in the US. The FCC limits them to 39% now. Sinclair currently reaches 38% of US households. Those pesky regulations again. And then, in the middle of this effort, they force ALL their news outlets to parrot the President’s favorite lines.
Sinclair has abdicated its responsibility as a real news organization. They should re-cast themselves as entertainment.
But it shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s been widely known for a long time that Sinclair forces “must-run” segments that come straight from corporate on its stations. So much for being local news stations, huh? I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise to you that those segments all just happen to align with Mr. Trump’s agenda.
I put this on my cover for a reason: “The security of the Nation is not at the ramparts alone. Security also lies in the value of our free institutions. A cantankerous press, an obstinate press, a ubiquitous press must be suffered by those in authority in order to preserve the even greater values of freedom of expression and the right of the people to know.” Judge Murray Gurfein, Pentagon Papers case, June 17, 1971.
Journalists should take that to heart, or just go to Hollywood where they are expected to read scripts.
Until next week then…see ya,
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