Is it pol­icy or pro­pa­ganda?

A scripted state­ment read by Sin­clair Broad­cast Group em­ploy­ees draws broad crit­i­cism even as it is de­fended by Pres­i­dent Trump.

The Standard Journal - - ENTERTAINMENT - By David Bauder AP Me­dia Writer

NEW YORK — A video with dozens of news an­chors read­ing a script about “fake sto­ries” put in stark visual terms what for weeks had largely been an aca­demic de­bate about me­dia con­sol­i­da­tion and the Sin­clair Broad­cast Group’s ef­forts to pro­mote a con­sis­tent mes­sage across its sta­tions.

The 98- sec­ond video, posted on Dead­spin Satur­day, has al­ready been viewed by mil­lions of peo­ple and pro­voked a tweet by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump sup­port­ing the cor­po­ra­tion on Mon­day.

Sin­clair owns nearly 200 lo­cal sta­tions and had or­dered its an­chors to read a state­ment ex­press­ing con­cern about “the trou­bling trend of ir­re­spon­si­ble, one- sided news sto­ries plagu­ing the coun­try.” Some out­lets pub­lish these “fake sto­ries” with­out check­ing facts first and some peo­ple in the me­dia push their own bi­ases, the state­ment said.

The an­chors give no spe­cific ex­am­ples. Sin­clair, whose cor­po­rate lead­er­ship leans right, uses ter­mi­nol­ogy fa­mil­iar to Trump and his crit­i­cisms of “fake news.” In the mes­sage, the an­chors say they “work very hard to seek the truth and strive to be fair, balanced and fac­tual.”

Tim­o­thy Burke, a video ed­i­tor at Dead­spin, said he read a CNN story last month about the script be­ing sent to lo­cal sta­tions and con­tacted a me­dia mon­i­tor­ing ser­vice to col­lect ex­am­ples of the state­ment be­ing read on the air. Af­ter re­ceiv­ing more than 50, he fash­ioned them into a video that shows an­chors read­ing dif­fer­ent por­tions of the text, ei­ther si­mul­ta­ne­ously or one af­ter the other. He posted a “teaser” with a small por­tion of the video Fri­day night and it quickly at­tracted at­ten­tion when tweeted by a Wis­con­sin jour­nal­ism pro­fes­sor. Not want­ing to see his work ap­pro­pri­ated by some­one else, Burke said he rushed to get the full video posted Satur­day af­ter­noon. It spread quickly, par­tic­u­larly when tweeted by celebri­ties like Judd Apa­tow and Jimmy Kim­mel.

The video’s rep­e­ti­tion il­lus­trates Sin­clair’s reach in a way mere num­bers can’t, said Jeff Jarvis, a jour­nal­ism pro­fes­sor at the City Univer­sity of New York.

“That’s what makes the video so pow­er­ful,” he said. “It il­lus­trates a story that in some cases can read like a con­spir­acy the­ory. You can see by the video that it’s not.”

A Sin­clair ex­ec­u­tive said Mon­day that he finds it cu­ri­ous that the com­pany would be at­tacked for ask­ing news peo­ple to re­mind the au­di­ence that un­sub­stan­ti­ated sto­ries ex­ist on so­cial me­dia. “It is ironic that we would be at­tacked for mes­sages pro­mot­ing our jour­nal­is­tic ini­tia­tive for fair and ob­jec­tive re­port­ing, and for specif­i­cally ask­ing the pub­lic to hold our news­rooms ac­count­able,” said Scott Liv­ingston, Sin­clair’s se­nior vice pres­i­dent of news. “Our lo­cal sta­tions keep our au­di­ences’ trust by stay­ing fo­cused on fact-based re­port­ing and clearly iden- ti­fy­ing com­men­tary.”

Af­ter the story was re­ported on CNN and MSNBC Mon­day, Trump jumped to Sin­clair’s de­fense.

“Funny to watch Fake News Net­works, among the most dis­hon­est groups of peo­ple I have ever dealt with, crit­i­ciz­ing Sin­clair Broad­cast­ing f or be­ing bi­ased,” he tweeted. “Sin­clair is far su­pe­rior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a to­tal joke.”

Mean­while, CNN’s Jim Acosta was crit­i­cized by some con­ser­va­tive me­dia out­lets on Mon­day for shout­ing ques­tions about im­mi­gra­tion to Trump while the pres­i­dent and first lady were at­tend­ing an Easter event on the grounds of the White House.

MSNBC’s “Morn­ing Joe” did a lengthy seg­ment on Burke’s Dead­spin video Mon­day, show­ing the words be­ing re­peated by sev­eral an­chors. Co-host Mika Brzezin­ski said she was sur­prised some of the lo­cal an­chors didn’t refuse to read it.

“This looks like some­thing we would mock the Rus­sians for do­ing dur­ing the days of Pravda,” said co-host Joe Scar­bor­ough.

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