Journalism should operate free of corporate interestsBy Chandler Gory | 04/04/2018 10:21pm
In a perfect world, journalists would not be beholden to corporate interests. News outlets wouldn’t have parent corporations to bow down to, and ratings wouldn’t drive content. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and the recent video showing dozens of local news anchors all speaking in unison, sharing the same warning against “biased and fake news,” is proof of that.
Sinclair Broadcast Group is a corporation that owns over 190 local news stations, a number that far surpasses any other media company in the United States. Recently, it mandated that many of its local anchors read a script pushing a message that falls in line with Sinclair’s typically conservative slant. The company has been criticized for pushing conservative commentary onto local airwaves in the past, and many media critics have pointed out that the recent fake news script falls in line with some of President Donald Trump’s most famous talking points. Trump has consistently railed on the news media for being biased, assigning the moniker “fake news” to any news outlets he perceives as being antagonistic or unfair to his agenda. The Sinclair script feeds right into Trump’s rhetoric.
Sinclair’s stranglehold on its local stations is an example of how journalism is failing the American people. News outlets should always advocate for transparency and honesty. The news media are the gatekeepers of American democracy. They are entrusted with reporting information that the public needs to know. Sinclair is making it hard for local news outlets to do that.
The corporate overreach in our society is unshakeable. We are all under any number of corporations’ influence at all times. Consumerism ensures that we are in constant need of the goods these corporate giants provide. However, the influence corporations have over our news media is even more troubling than the influence they have over all of us.
Journalism should be a free and independent enterprise. When Congress decided to grant ABC, NBC and CBS 30 minutes a night to report the news, they should have included the provision that these 30 minutes would be sacred and free of advertisements. But they didn’t, so here we are, with money and revenue being taken into account with every journalistic decision.
Journalists shouldn’t have to take their parent corporations’ interests into account when reporting the news. Journalists shouldn’t have to deal with corporate mandates hanging over their heads. Journalists shouldn’t have to sacrifice their values to please a CEO.
The Sinclair script perpetrates the public’s distrust of the news media. As if journalists didn’t have a hard enough time doing their jobs as it is, Sinclair had to go and make it 10 times harder. Local news has typically been separated from this growing discontent because of its lack of political pundits and commentary, but there’s no doubt that Sinclair has irreparably damaged these local news stations’ credibility. In fact, the Sinclair script seems to have inadvertently added to the fake news narrative by raising these local stations’ credibility into question. What else has Sinclair mandated their stations to do?
The Sinclair script is a very visible example of a problem that has been growing rapidly within the past few decades. News outlets are increasingly strapped for cash as the media landscape continues to change and move online, so it is understandable that local stations would obey their parent corporation to keep their jobs. Money is a powerful influencer, and the news media need money now more than ever. This creates a conundrum that, sadly, doesn’t seem to have a solution. Therefore, the burden must fall onto individual journalists to act as ethically and independently as possible. Journalism is a sacred profession. I wish corporations would remember that.
Chandler Gory is a junior majoring in journalism and political science.