CNN was among many news outlets to highlight Sinclairâs creepy use of a âmust-runâ across a swath of its local television stations. âSome media outlets publish these same fake stories ... stories that just arenât true, without checking facts first,â read the script, which was mouthed by Sinclair anchor after Sinclair anchor, âUnfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control âexactly what people think.ââ
Deadspin created a mashup of the recitations, just to highlight the high degree of compliance at the chain.âReally, what itâs doing - itâs kind of like the Fox News âfair and balancedâ slogan. Itâs a way of saying, âWeâre fair. Everybody else is biased.â And itâs taking a page out of Trumpâs playbook,â said CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter on a March edition of his show âReliable Sources.â
Sinclair didnât like such commentary, so it published a fresh video seeking to rebut Stelter and CNN.
Titled âDid CNN Attack Sinclair For Doing Exactly What CNN Has Done For Years?,â the presentation examines apparent overlaps between the recent âmust runâ Sinclair video and Stelterâs own warnings about âfake newsâ from 2016 and 2017.
âFake news has become a plague on the web, and especially on social networks,â said Stelter in a moment featured on the new Sinclair video response to CNN. âThat concern about biased and fake news sounds a lot like what Sinclair anchors talked about in 2018 ...,â reads a note in that video. âWeâre 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.â
More: âFake news is a problem. Everyone knows it. Calling out Sinclair for calling out âfake newsâ is dishonest and reprehensible,â says the anti-CNN Sinclair video.
There are a number of problems with Sinclairâs rebuttal:
Documentation: Sinclairâs script was a journalistic abomination on its own terms. There were no examples, no supporting documentation - merely innuendo that echoed the sort of complaints often advanced by President Donald Trump, not to mention Sinclair commentator Boris Epshteyn.
Compliance: Sinclairâs pushback ignores what really animated the country about its âmust runâ script: Anchors all over the country were saying the same thing, with apparent feeling. That dynamic - accentuated by the Deadspin treatment - militated against the ideal of local news as something that bubbles up from communities instead of something that gets rammed down the throats of journalists from some news honcho outside of Baltimore. As Stelter himself noted Tuesday on Twitter:
âThereâs a huge difference between my coverage and Sinclairâs mandatory promos. No one tells me what to say. But these anchors were told exactly what to say.â
Definitions: The Sinclair anti-CNN video cites a Stelter monologue from October 2016 in which he states, âFake news has become a plague on the web, and especially on social networks like Facebook.
There are so many unreliable sources about this election.â As part of that presentation, he also noted examples of the sort of information that was poisoning the public discourse, including a bogus account that a protester against then-candidate Donald Trump was paid to do his thing. In those days, âfake newsâ was widely interpreted as purposeful smears and lies designed to maximize political impact and revenue. Since then, Trump and his allies have hijacked the term to describe negative stories about the current administration. So Stelter and Sinclair are addressing entirely different problems.
Targets: Finally, if Sinclair really wanted to vacate the notion that itâs following Trumpâs âplaybook,â maybe it wasnât the best idea to release a video attacking CNN.
Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.