Two of the anchors at a TV station in Eugene, Oregon owned by Sinclair Broadcasting refused to record a controversial on-air promo ordered by the station’s owners which criticized other media outlets for biased reporting
The anchors, Lauren Lapka and Cameron Walker, both declined to read the promotional statement that was aired last month by dozens of Sinclair-owned stations in other markets.
In the statement, the anchors repeat what the corporate office in Baltimore sent to them, that some media air “fake news stories without checking facts” and have an agenda to “control exactly what people think” which is “dangerous to our democracy.”
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Criticism of the promos has gone viral since Deadspin compiled many of the anchors and reporters repeating the same words again and again on a video, which has led to critics calling it propaganda.
Lapka only joined KVAL as a morning anchor in January after working in Joplin, Missouri.
She said that she and other anchors were told in early March that they were going to record a promotional video but wasn’t shown the wording until after an article about it had appeared on CNN. “I wasn’t comfortable with it, she said. “I don’t believe in hurting other journalists.”
Lapka said her job was not threatened for her refusal to read the statement. She did not make any additional comments but on her Facebook page, she alluded to the incident:
“In light of recent events, I just want to take this time to say that I will always be here for you, the viewers – whether its Chicago, southwest Missouri, Oregon – or wherever my future takes me. I always strive to follow all aspects of the Society of Professional Journalists Code or Ethics.”
Walker would not comment on her refusal to record the promo but other past and current journalists at Sinclair stations have spoken out about their concerns that the politically conservative broadcast company is trading on their hard-won credibility to deliver its own biased messages. One news producer even quit in protest.
Yesterday, Lapka provided her advice to viewers: “If we are talking about trusting journalists, my advice would be to get to know your local journalists as best as you can and make the decision for yourself.”
With 197 stations across the country, Sinclair is currently the largest broadcast group in the U.S. It is expected to grow larger if its proposed acquisition of Tribune Broadcasting takes place, giving them a hand in larger markets like New York and Los Angeles.
The broadcasting giant has been floating in the public eye since it publicly endorsed Trump for president in 2016 and continued airing positive, Fox News-like coverage of the president. Most recently, Trump took to Twitter to defend the broadcaster, calling Sinclair’s competitors “fake news”:
The Fake News Networks, those that knowingly have a sick and biased AGENDA, are worried about the competition and quality of Sinclair Broadcast. The “Fakers” at CNN, NBC, ABC & CBS have done so much dishonest reporting that they should only be allowed to get awards for fiction!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 3, 2018
In its infancy, Sinclair’s news bias skirted the national radar as it primarily owned stations in rural areas. Now that it is expanding into bigger markets, it is finally getting a well-deserved dose of criticism.
It would be justified for the government to block Sinclairs’ buy-out of Tribune, though that seems highly unlikely. The FCC looks like a subsidiary of the company under the rule of Ajit Pai. Trump is so desperate to see any positive news coverage of himself, regardless of the consequence, so it is unlikely he’ll step in, either.
It will be a sad day for American news media if Sinclair manages to grow larger still.