This is one way that democracies die. A free press turns itself into a megaphone for whatever tinpot despot is in power.
"This is extremely dangerous to our democracy," they all say in unison.
Earlier this month, CNN’s Brian Stelter broke the news that Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner or operator of nearly 200 television stations in the U.S., would be forcing its news anchors to record a promo about “the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country.” The script, which parrots Donald Trump’s oft-declarations of developments negative to his presidency as “fake news,” brought upheaval to newsrooms already dismayed with Sinclair’s consistent interference to bring right-wing propaganda to local television broadcasts.
The script, as transcribed by ThinkProgress based on the KOMO (Seattle) version, reads:
Hi, I’m(A) ____________, and I’m (B) _________________…
(B) Our greatest responsibility is to serve our Northwest communities. We are extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that KOMO News produces.
(A) But we’re concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country. The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media.
(B) More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories… stories that just aren’t true, without checking facts first.
(A) 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.
(B) At KOMO it’s our responsibility to pursue and report the truth. We understand Truth is neither politically ‘left nor right.’ Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.
(A) But we are human and sometimes our reporting might fall short. If you believe our coverage is unfair please reach out to us by going to KOMOnews.com and clicking on CONTENT CONCERNS. We value your comments. We will respond back to you.
(B) We work very hard to seek the truth and strive to be fair, balanced and factual… We consider it our honor, our privilege to responsibly deliver the news every day.↓ Story continues below ↓
(A) Thank you for watching and we appreciate your feedback.
Some have blamed the anchors for going along with this sham.
But as Brian Stetler at CNN mentioned earlier this month when news of these promos first surfaced, there has been considerable friction.
"At my station, everyone was uncomfortable doing it," a local anchor said. The person insisted on anonymity because they believed they would be fired for speaking out.
Other local anchors also said the promos were a source of dismay in their newsrooms.
As scripted, the promos decry "fake stories" from national news outlets -- echoing President Trump's inflammatory rhetoric about "fake news."