The line is blurring further as unbiased journalism continues to suffer losses.
The story ~
Recently, CNN’s Brian Stelter brought to light a troubling issue with the stations owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, a conglomerate owner of over 190 local stations in the U.S.
By Stelter's account, local news anchors were forced to recite a word-by-word denouncement of “other stations” and their supposedly loose journalistic standards for "one sided news stories plaguing our country”.
For an eerie illustration of what that kind of control of the press looks like, check out this brilliant video by Timothy Burke of Deadspin
(It’s also worth reading the backstory of Timothy's video if you're curious).
And it’s important to note that it's unsettling not because it stems from one side of the political spectrum or the other. We should be alarmed because it reveals an unapologetic effort to control and homogenize news coverage, which is dangerous no matter the political leanings.
Why it matters ~
The future of democracy hinges on unbiased facts, and the freedom to discuss said facts in a multitude of voices. Rather than allow diversity in the public discourse, Sinclair was umasked for unabashedly controlling the narrative they chose to push. Unsurprisingly, the irony of using a singular verbatim script to denounce “one sided” news across hundreds of stations seems to be lost on them.
So what happens when this trend is taken one step further? Do news events themselves suffer the same treatment? Does it become permissible only to report on events in the light that powerful interests (who employ journalists) deem “acceptable”?
There is a long list of steadfast reasons that freedom of the press is a fundamental pillar of democracy, and access to unbiased information is at the top of the list. If you want to take over a nation’s mind, the first step is controlling the media. Sometimes take-overs are more gradual than we might expect.
Fortunately, even among the Sinclair stations, some news anchors have begun pushing back against the corporate demands.
Currently, the Sinclair Broadcast Group is seeking FCC approval for it’s proposed acquisition of Tribune Media which would boost Sinclair's total reach even further to 233 stations. You can read even more here.