Since Deadspin’s supercut of Sinclair Broadcast Group anchors parroting Trumpian media criticism went viral this weekend, the conservative TV company has downplayed the outcry over its right-wing editorial bent. Sinclair’s “commentary offers a viewpoint that may be ignored by other organizations,” President and CEO Christopher S. Ripley told Axios Tuesday, adding, “[O]ur critics are stretching to prove a non-business or sinister intent that just simply does not exist.”
See? No big deal!
On Tuesday morning, however, New York magazine published snippets of an email conversation with Sinclair’s executive chairman, David Smith, that seemed a bit more...candid. The brief exchange came last year, Olivia Nuzzi wrote, when she was unsuccessfully inquiring about an interview with Smith. In declining to speak to the reporter, the media executive shared anti-media invective that in no way, certainly did not, no siree suggested his company’s national expansion is in part a political project (emphasis mine):
Appreciate the interest in your wanting to do a story but we don’t talk to the print media as a general principal [sic] as we find them to be so devoid of reality and serving no real purpose. Have a great holiday.
I must tell that in all the 45 plus years I have been in the media business I have never seen a single article about us that is reflective of reality especially in today’s world with the shameful political environment and generally complete lack of integrity. Facts and truth have been lost for a long time and likely to never return.
The print media is so left wing as to be meaningless dribble which accounts for why the industry is and will fade away. Just no credibility.
I will look past—just this once—the confusion between “dribble” and “drivel.” Sinclair is publicly attempting to allay concerns that its takeover of local TV stations, aided by a friendly Trump administration, is nothing to worry about. At the same time, its top executive is spouting press-hating rhetoric that tracks closely with that of Roger Ailes, Sean Hannity, and other foul creatures of the conservative media machine. Cloaked in “fair and balanced” language, the wink-and-nod tactics by Sinclair have proven effective enough to draw the attention of the president himself:
Text-based media—which Smith said serves “no purpose”—continues to sound the alarm about Sinclair’s expansion as the company awaits regulatory approval for its proposed merger with Tribune Media. In Chicago, where the company is attempting to assume operations of WGN, local media reporter Robert Feder wrote that the station’s journalists have grown even more wary of the pending takeover since Deadspin’s video went viral.
It’s not just outsiders, though. A Sinclair-owned Fox affiliate in Wisconsin even tweeted Monday that it didn’t show its parent company’s media bias promo over the weekend:
There’s also public criticism from individual former Sinclair employees. Aaron Weiss, a former news director at an Iowa station purchased by Sinclair in 2013, wrote on HuffPost on Tuesday that Sinclair utilized trusted local anchors to peddle its nationally focused, conservative-leaning commentary.
“The only opinions Sinclair allows on air are the opinions that come out of headquarters, because the company will not risk giving local audiences a dissenting view,” Weiss wrote.
So, more Boris Epshteyn “analyzing” national politics through a pro-Trump lens, less discussion of issues that matter specifically to your community. The concern about that shift on local TV stations—which are cited as a news source by more Americans than cable or network stations—is not meaningless drivel.
If you work at Sinclair or notice any changes at your local Sinclair-owned station, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.