Thursday, April 5, 2018

Brief #8: Investigative Journalism


Journalists of all types generally pride themselves on their honesty and integrity.  They are schooled in professional ethics.  Their job is to search for the truth and to report the facts.  These days, journalists and their ethics are under attack by the President of United States and those who follow him.  The recent news stories about Sinclair Broadcast Group shows a further clash between those with money and power, and journalists.  Video

Sinclair logo

Sinclair Broadcast Group started in the seventies, but now they have almost 200 news stations across the country.  A loophole in the law, as well as political shenanigans, have enabled them to buy up a lot of stations. They contribute to the consolidation of the media that has been going on in the U.S. for quite awhile. According to recent news reports, they tell their reporters in these news stations exactly what to say in their editorials (which are always conservative).  Americans rely on the news to be accurate, and if a news person is delivering an editorial commentary, it's expected that the commentary is their own, as a local voice of the community.  It's shocking to learn that so many of these stations are just delivering whatever their bosses want them to say, without regard to journalistic integrity. This story of "must-read editorials" was in the news this week when someone put many of the stations' videos together to show just how alike they were. Although some reporters have been warning us about Sinclair for a while, it was a viral video from a sports news site Deadspin that recently brought Sinclair into the public awareness. Video

Kushner struck deal with sinclair

This video not only shows you the synchronized news stories, but it tells all about how Sinclair is growing, and what lies they've been telling, especially in their home city of Baltimore. It's pretty scandalous.  Although it's true that newspapers, TV news stations, news networks and the like are businesses that want to make a profit, it's rare that the people in charge so obviously care more about making money and pushing their own greedy agenda than they do about the integrity of their programming.

The leftist magazine The Nation rightly points out that this is chilling - not because it's right-wing news - but because having ONE source (or few sources) for the news is bad for democracy.  Their company website claims that they're "one of the largest and most diversified television broadcasting companies in the country."  I don't think they understand what "diversified" really means.

The group has been accused not just of pushing a right-wing agenda, but of favoring Trump and his allies. Trump has also praised Sinclair, while he's denounced all other news sources, except for FOX news.  This all goes against everything journalists believe.  The reporters should be as unbiased as possible, and reporting real news, not reporting with any agenda.  An editorial should not be promoting the interests of a corporation whose goal is just to make money and to have power, not to represent the community or discuss real issues.  It's ironic that the editorial that drew the attention of the media was about "fake news," when that's what these editorials seem to be. Video

This article pose the hypothetical question, "What would happen if President Obama acted like Trump on Twitter, and Sinclair were a left wing news organization?"  Of course, it's a silly thing to speculate because Obama would never act that way, and there really aren't any left wing news organizations.  Many journalists may have liberal or progressive beliefs, but they don't let those beliefs get in the way of their journalistic goals.  It would be unethical for them to do that. Video

As legendary investigative journalist Bob Woodward says about reporters who cover President Trump, "it’s important to get your personal politics out. It's destructive to become too politicized." Someone needs to teach Sinclair about these basic press ethics.

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