Let’s address local media as though it existed to serve all our most ideal expectations. The reporting would be timely, relevant, wholly accurate and presented in a completely unbiased manner. In essence, it would exist in its purest form — every goal strived for as a news outlet would be met seamlessly. Debates over bias would be nonexistent and consuming news would only require the viewer to digest its content, not question its validity.
This utopian media environment would be perhaps most important in the local news sector, where 37 percent of Americans say they often receive their news, nearly 10 percentage points higher than cable news and 11 points higher than network television news. Even further, local news consumption is higher in America than virtually any other source.
This means more people get their news from local news than newspapers, news websites, social media and radio. Essentially, local news is the premier source of news for the average American, and, as such, handling its content should be of arguably paramount importance. No other source reaches more consumers, so if its content is botched, it affects the widest population. Any slip up in coverage or agenda-pushing content will have sweeping effects stemming both from how many consumers come in contact with the media and the overwhelmingly high level of trust in local news outlets.
From the desk of the editor: Publications strive their best to fight ‘fake news’ — news consumers should tooAdmit it, there have been times you read a headline and refused to click it because reading that one sentence Read…
Recently, Sinclair Broadcast Group, a media corporation who owns 173 stations and 81 broadcast networks nationwide, aired a promotional message labeled as “must-run” content on their channels preaching the importance of journalistic integrity and unbiased reporting. The message begins as a well-intentioned promotion of the given network’s dedication to producing balanced and quality journalism, noting the pattern of one-sided reporting that has plagued our country. Rather quickly, however, the message reverts to an unproductive and problematic tirade clobbering national media outlets.
“The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media,” the message reads. “More alarming, national media outlets are publishing these same fake stories without checking facts first. Unfortunately, some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’ … This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.”
What’s alarming about this message is not the suggestion that national media corporations are seemingly publishing stories without a care, but how inherently biased and downright harmful this message is by nature. The hypocrisy is utterly clear — “be wary of news sources that encourage you to think a certain way, but also here’s how you should think.” The message suggests an unbiased mindset while preaching a message that suggests national news corporations are misleading viewers, an inherently Trumpian perspective and one riddled with bias. Any news source that publishes criticism of our nation’s president is immediately deemed either as false or met with childish backlash on social media.
The story was much the same when the Sinclair controversy aired. President Donald Trump took to Twitter immediately, supporting the promotion while simultaneously tearing apart news sources which have held him accountable for his actions.
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
The quarrel to address here, however, doesn’t lie between Sinclair and Trump. Instead, it lies with local news sources and their willingness to air such a promotion. It’s within their rights as a station to decline airing the message, which is precisely what Madison’s own FOX 47 News chose to do.
In a statement, FOX 47 responded with, ironically, a much similar message to that which Sinclair pushed, saying their focus was on Madison storylines only. The main distinction between the two is that FOX 47’s message revolved around the station’s commitment to timely and proximal news instead of suggesting national news corporations are out to mislead the public.
But here’s the kicker: FOX 47 did exactly what the right-leaning Sinclair group has advocated for — they’ve stood up against misleading and unproductive information reaching the American public. Instead of complying with Sinclair’s demands to regurgitate a singular storyline, they chose to stay committed to the news they know to be of relevance to the Madison public. If Sinclair has a problem with stations embodying the corporation’s supposed guiding principles, as they were with FOX 47’s actions, perhaps it’s time they reevaluated their validity.
Lucas Johnson ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in journalism and strategic communication.