Sinclair broadcast mandates script
By: Olivia Wile
While fake news is a term that is tossed around in the journalism industry quite frequently, it is making headlines again.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that Sinclair Broadcast group, the nation’s largest telecommunications company, sent a mandated script to all of its’ local news stations to record and air.
A video produced by Deadspin, a sports news site, combines clips of various news anchors reading the exact same script. According to the Washington Post, Sinclair owns over 170 stations around the nation, reaching an estimated 72 percent of U.S. households.
Professor of Communications Dr. Diana Montague explains the concern of this situation.
“The concept to me is frightening because for your local news in particular, you don’t think that there’s some big puppet tree guiding your local news,” stated Montague.
Montague brings up the fourth paragraph of the script which states: “Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’…This is extremely dangerous to a democracy.”
“For them to have to read a script that, I’m assuming they don’t agree with, I mean that’s an opinion from on high that they’re delivering,” explained Montague. “That to me is just incredibly insidious and if there’s a threat to our democracy, that’s a good example.”
As a journalism and digital media major working towards this career field, University of Findlay Junior Cory Berlekamp says he finds the incident just as alarming.
“To learn that one of the people who owns one of the media stations can control or at least hand down ‘must reads’ to you as a journalist, I wouldn’t say it’s disheartening, but I would say it’s shocking,” said Berlekamp.
As an individual who stands by what he believes, Berlekamp says if in the position of these producers and anchors, he would not read the script.
“I feel like deep down if I were put into that position than I would have to make the decision not to read it,” said Berlekamp.
From a history degree, to pursuing music and going to culinary school, the 29-year-old has changed career paths multiple times and says he would not hesitate changing again if he had to.
“First you voice your opinion and if its not going to get heard or change anything then I’m out,” explained Berlekamp. “If that would come down to me finding a new job or career, then I would have to because I would not be able to read it.”
Montague states that, however, for those chasing stability or trying to support a family, putting their job at risk is not that easy.
“We would like to think that everyone is so ethically focused that they would say, ‘I’m not going to do this I would rather walk,’ but when you’ve got a mortgage payment, a school loan payment, a family; what do you do?”
Both the professor and student do agree that there are measures that can be taken to prevent this incident from reoccurring.
“If you are being coerced to do something like this, to speak something, write something that you don’t agree with, but is being passed off as fact, then there are arms of journalism, ethical arms, legal arms, to contact and let them know,” said Montague.
Berlekamp feels it is ultimately up to journalists to stay true to the fourth estate, the press working as an object source of fact.
“The idea is to, especially as a journalist, be vigilant, if you don’t like it say it, because other people will see it and respect it,” concluded Berlekamp.
To watch the Sinclair Broadcast script in action, visit: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/04/02/598794433/video-reveals-power-of-sinclair-as-local-news-anchors-recite-script-in-unison.