We have an extinction crisis on our hands. Of course, I’m aware that many species of wildlife have been dying out for years, but I’m not talking about animals here. I’m referring to the ongoing epidemic of the disappearance of bipartisan local news stations.

Just like a big game hunter, Sinclair news, an ultra-conservative news network, has been hunting down local news stations across the country. What do they do after they catch the stations? Why, feed them a daily dose of conservative viewpoints with a side of propaganda to share with the masses.

Sinclair Who?

How long has there been an open season on our local news networks? According to The Washington Post, Sinclair Broadcasting originally started in 1986 by Julian Sinclair Smith. Back then, Sinclair Broadcasting was little more than a conservative friendly news station, and nothing like the giant it is today. The company really hit its growth spurt during the George W. Bush administration. Sinclair went to great lengths to discredit Democratic Senator John Kerry, attacking his military career and activism during the Vietnam War, and effectively sabotaging his Presidential campaign. Sinclair threw its support instead behind incumbent Bush and the war in Iraq, depicting it as a necessity for national security.

By 2016, the Sinclair Broadcasting Group evolved into something beyond just another biased news network. With the support of President Trump’s advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, Sinclair Broadcasting now wielded the power to buy out local news stations and manipulate the content in support of the current administration.

Big Trust in Small News

But why buy local news? According to a study by PEW Research Center, local news is the most trusted source of news for most Americans, regardless of political affiliation. If you wish to influence a population of people with slanted rhetoric, wouldn’t you use the most trusted source of information to deliver the message? Adding to that, President Trump likes to throw around the phrase “Fake News” as a way of hammering away at the credibility of journalism. Hence, people are unsure of who to trust: the president or the journalists. According to the Chicago Tribune, sensationalist news outlets like Sinclair do not wish to enlighten the people with facts, but rather reinforce the paranoid, distrustful atmosphere of the president. Moreover, Sinclair owns a lot of local news stations, the majority in Midwestern blue states. According to Sinclair Broadcasting Group, the company owns 16 stations in liberal Washington. This is because Sinclair wishes to push its message and propaganda especially hard in Democratic states.

Fake News?

In fact, it’s getting more difficult for viewers to distinguish what content is reliable, and what’s been “Sinclair-ized.” For example, reporters from the stations owned by Sinclair told The New York Times about one line in particular they had to repeat that made them feel uncomfortable:

“The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media. Some members of the media use their platform to push their own personal bias. This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.”

The effect was made even more real and chilling when Timothy Burke, the video director at Deadspin, edited all the clips of the news anchors’ pre-scripted Sinclair mandated speeches together. The result was an eerie echo of the same message to the American people: Be Afraid.

The video of the local news stations’ speech can be seen at the link here.

So Who’s Right?

So, is there a reason to fear, or is Sinclair not doing anything wrong? According to an article by National Public Radio (NPR), CNN was the first to hear about this strange broadcast and the backlash by journalists of local news stations. In the CNN reading, the report stated that “Some members of the national media use their platform to push their own personal bias.”

However, Sinclair’s top news executive, Scott Livingston, insisted that there are no political motives in the company’s actions or reporting. In fact, he said he believes that it is Sinclair themselves who are the victims in all this, stating in an interview with NPR: “The CNN story claimed our promotion message was an attack on national media, but our message is a warning about fake news spreading on social media.”

However, Sinclair handed out two different scripts: One to local news reporters that was obtained by CNN, and the other to NPR reporters. On top of that, Chris Ruddy, the chairman of Newsmax, a right-of-center news site and cable channel, stated in an interview about Sinclair: “Sinclair has a very strong position. I think they have a lot of similarities to Breitbart.”

Ruddy’s statement is disturbing because, according to a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) report, Breitbart’s founder, Andrew Breitbart, created Breitbart News to, ” challenge and undermine the power of mainstream media, which he saw as ruled by liberal-leaning reporters, editors and publishers.”

Coming from anyone else, this statement could be passed off as the mere left-right political bashing that’s been commonplace in current years. However, this came from a fellow conservative news station that one would normally think would support the spread of conservatism.

Seeking The Truth

There’s no doubt that Sinclair itself is a significant threat to our democracy. From monopolizing local stations, to forcing reporters to repeat its propaganda, to adding even more to the already paranoid atmosphere of today’s society, Sinclair is clearly not just “warning the nation about fake news” – it’s perpetuating it. Not only do they insist local news stations read from their scripts, but any reporter who refuses risks losing his or her job.

Fact Checking

Even in these tough times, there is hope. If the viewing public is careful and fact checks often, the damage may not be as severe. The old saying, “Don’t believe everything you read” applies to any media source, and websites such as Snopes are helpful in terms of fact checking. Finally, if your local news station suddenly starts broadcasting stories about goings on overseas, review it with a good dose of skepticism.

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