The media world is in full crisis mode because Sinclair Broadcasting is using its television stations to give an opinion about so-called “fake news.” Holy shit!
What’s all the hubbub really about…Bub?
Are you (because I don’t and because I know) to believe that this is the first time “evil corporate despots” have told their on-air and content producing staffs what to say or not say?
There was that time 15-years ago when the Dixie Chicks dared to speak out against then President George W. Bush, who is from Texas, and the impending war with Iraq. Their records were allegedly pulled from country radio airwaves as punishment. Natalie Maines, the Chick that shot off her mouth in England, is from Lubbock, Texas, which made it worse. A Texan did this? I programmed a news/talk station at the time. So I probably wasn’t on the list to get the memo from corporate HQ in San Antonio, which also happens to be in Texas.
There was a time when news/talk stations were told not to speak about Caitlyn Jenner unless they were sympathetic to her…I mean him… maybe he is a her…anyway Caitlyn’s cause. What other angle could a news/talk host have when talking to a mainly conservative, old and male audience than calling the…she’s not a “she male”…is he a “he girl?” I don’t know. Anyway, this decree caused many hosts not to talk about the topic du jour back then.
And while I’m thinking about it, in porn lingo, don’t believe what they tell you. It’s not a “chicks with dicks.” It’s “dudes with tits.”
See? It could have been a fun talk show topic.
Let’s move on.
One of my all time favorites commands came about after a radio host called out the entitled, rude and boorish bicyclists that clog roads and back up traffic during afternoon rush hours. To make matters worse they wear ugly ass clothes covered in logos and goofy helmets. A directive came out shortly there after that this topic was off limits and not to be discussed again on the radio stations. Now you’re wondering why, right? Seems like a legit topic that would engage plenty of frustrated people stuck in traffic. Well one of the owners of the company was big into bicycling, was offended, and I’m guessing also wore those humiliating clothes with ass pads.
These are examples of what not to say. Here’s one of what to say.
Talk hosts were asked to get behind and support Rush Limbaugh because of his stupid and misogynistic comments about Sandra Fluke. You remember he called the young woman, and then Georgetown University law student, a “slut” and “prostitute” because of her congressional testimony on birth control and women’s health. He did apologize. As the internal corporate spin began, there was the suggestion that this was not an inappropriate comment at all and was actually a “First Amendment” issue. I remember thinking someone at corporate should quickly pull out a pocket Constitution and give it a read. The relevant axiom is easy to find. It’s number one on the list.
No, the issue was an old man making a stupid statement and verbally abusing a young woman, which is never appropriate in our society.
I will admit guilt here. I held a conference call with news/talk programmers and attempted to give the company rah, rah and spin. I knew better, but I was catching a paycheck every few weeks. After the call, and after stumbling and stammering on how we need to support our colleague whose mouth got away from him, a friend of mine in the business commented, “Darryl didn’t believe a word he was saying.” Nope. I didn’t. Not a single fucking word.
The power to shape opinions is given to those who own the radio and TV stations, the printing presses, and the popular Internet sites. It’s always been that way. If you’ve got the money, you’ve got the power and can say what you want.
In the early part of the 20th century there was newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst who popularized what was then called “yellow journalism.” Yes, “fake news” has been around for a while. He bought and started newspapers around the country mostly to further his own political goals and ambitions. He was ruthless in his pursuit of power and used the influence of his printing presses to his personal advantage.
Watch the incredible Orson Welles’ film “Citizen Kane.” The main character is supposedly a portrayal of Hearst, who, when the film was released, told his newspapers they will not mention the movie, review the movie or accept advertising for the movie. He also had many theaters ban it and threatened others who then also refused to show the movie. Initially, the Academy Award winning film was a big money loser at the box office.
What Sinclair Broadcasting is doing is nothing new and I have to admit I’m amused at the hypocritical response of competitive media.
How, for example, can MSNBC be critical of Sinclair Broadcasting when they, along with NBC News, shelved the story about Hollywood kingpin Harvey Weinstein’s alleged abuse of women? They had the story and had the power to do something, but did nothing. Whatever the business reason, NBC Universal (as in Universal Pictures) felt it was best to not shine the cleansing light of truth on this story.
It’s also easy to say the Sinclair anchors and employees around the country should refuse to take part in this corporate propaganda. With media jobs so few and far between, and becoming less each day, it’s hard to walk from a paycheck. Could you? TV anchors have families to support too.
Who you trust to get the news and help shape your opinions is up to you. Just understand, as history shows, what Sinclair Broadcasting is doing is nothing new. Media has always tried, is trying and will do its best in the future to shape your opinion to mirror the opinions of that media’s ownership.
They want you to carry their water. And you’ve doing a great job.
The only difference here is that Sinclair used the news component to insert the opinion component, and played it off as normal SOP.
I doubt that, for example, you would have made Jeff Henderson run a commentary by, say, Bill Cunningham during the newscasts on 700 WLW… because Willie already had his proper positioning after the newscasts to provide the opinion dynamic. It would have been redundant and diminished both the newscasts and the talk show.
If Sinclair decided to give Boris Epysteyn a nightly opinion talk show after the newscats (or hired Bill O’Reilly for such a thing, as was rumored late last year), there wouldn’t be much to get that outraged over. Just that Sinclair changed the dynamic entirely between news and opinion, and decided to remove the firewall between the two.
It had been in the works for awhile, as Sinclair’s infamous “NewsCentral” experiment and Mark Hyman editorials (a remnant of that experiment) had already toyed with this idea as early as 2003.