Stop Yelling at Sinclair’s Anchors
The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing you to scream at his employees. He makes those lesser of his soul to perform and showcase evil to the public. That devil is now the face of Sinclair Broadcast Group, whom recently forced news anchors at its 173 local TV stations to recite a script full of Trump-friendly talking points about fake news and a biased media. The story blew up last week when Deadspin published a terrifying compilation of anchors reciting the message in synch. And the public is taking out its anger…at the anchors. Which is exactly what Sinclair wants you to do.
An anonymous Sinclair anchor writes in HuffPost about the abuse they’ve received:
We got about 60 emails ― hateful emails ― yesterday, dozens of phone calls, people yelling profanity at us. I have people yelling at me, saying I’m a zombie, that I’m soulless, that I’ve sold my integrity, which is not nice to hear. So yeah, it sucks.
What sucks more, the anchor writes, is that people are demanding that they quit in protest—because people have no idea that quitting would ruin the anchors’ lives:
These jobs ― they’re very hard to come by. And if I quit, I owe the company 40 percent of my salary, plus a percentage of the [redacted] years remaining on my contract, plus any bonuses that they’ve paid to me and any reimbursements that they’ve paid to me. And they’re going to take me to court for it. And in the time that I’m in court, I’m not employable.
The piece might sound defensive, but it makes a strong case. Sinclair leadership—which is trying to buy Tribune Media, to have an even bigger stranglehold on local news, and needs federal approval—forced its anchors to bash their own industry, knew it could destroy the life of anyone who refuses, and got everyone to blame the anchors.
Where did people get this idea? If they actually read the news stories about this scandal, they’d see that the corporation is to blame. When CNN broke the Sinclair story in March, it quoted anchors who hated the exercise: “I felt like a POW recording a message,” said one anchor. “At my station, everyone was uncomfortable doing it,” said another. Deadspin said they look “like hostages in proof-of-life videos, trying their hardest to spit out words attacking the industry they’d chosen as a life vocation.” A KOMO employee told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “It’s certainly a forced thing.” (Think Progress, which made its own viral video of the mass recitations, repeated the quote.)
Maybe some Sinclair employees out there agree with the message—but the overall internal reaction was frustration and dismay. Even if local employees supported the message, the entire point of this story is that it wasn’t their call anyway.
Tweeting at a local station is like screaming at the Wal-Mart clerk about company policy. You ruin the day of someone who might be on your side, and you pretend you’ve struck some blow against a corporation that doesn’t know you exist. If you want to fight Sinclair’s growing media power, do what HuffPost’s anonymous anchor says:
If you want to make a difference, lobby your lawmakers to have them stop the Tribune deal from going through, because that is what is dangerous about this. It’s dangerous for any company to own as many stations as Sinclair does. Healthy competition is a good thing.
Talk to your lawmaker about it. That is what will actually make a difference. Hate-tweeting me? That doesn’t make a difference.
Calling your representatives works. No really, it works, sometimes even under this monster parade of an administration. Don’t scream at the representative’s underling on the phone. Politely tell the person on the phone that a more powerful Sinclair is a less free America. And use this scandal as the evidence. Skip the indiscriminate rage and settle for, I don’t know, smug satisfaction.