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With his campaign floundering, Donald Trump appears to be adopting a new media strategy: minimizing exposure from cable and national broadcast networks while still reaching millions of viewers by granting interviews to major local broadcast providers that will provide the footage to affiliates across the country.
Since the beginning of the general election campaign in June, Trump’s campaign has deliberately reduced his appearances on national broadcast and cable news shows. The one exception has been Fox News, where the GOP nominee regularly appears for softball interviews. According to Fox News’ Howard Kurtz, the shift came because a faction of the Trump campaign was convinced that “constant rounds of interviews entail too much risk of the candidate making mistakes or fanning minor controversies.” Indeed, a rare interview on ABC’s This Week this past Sunday generated a wave of criticism after Trump attacked the parents of an American Muslim soldier killed fighting in Iraq.
But a Fox-only strategy brings its own challenge: Trump is able to speak only to those who already support him. He needs a different strategy in order to reach the rest of the country while avoiding the pitfalls of national broadcast or cable interviewers.
On August 2, Trump sat for interviews with Sinclair Broadcast Group and Gray Television Group that will air on their local broadcast affiliates throughout the country. Sinclair Broadcast Group, which has come under fire in the past for their conservative slant and for ordering their stations in 2004 to preempt regular programming in order to air an anti-John Kerry ad, boasts on their website that they control 173 television stations in 81 markets. Gray Television Group claims “180 program streams” in 51 markets nationwide.
Trump’s campaign has taken a dismal turn as Hillary Clinton opens a sizable lead in national polling amid a flurry of Trump controversies. In order to turn things around, he is seeking to skip the national media gatekeepers while still reaching a national audience.
Discredited former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson will host a weekly news show on Sunday mornings starting October 4 on Sinclair Broadcast Group stations, which include ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox affiliates. Attkisson has a lengthy record of shoddy, inaccurate reporting, and she has pushed a bizarre conspiracy theory that the government hacked her home electronics.
Discredited former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson will host a weekly news show on Sunday mornings for Sinclair Broadcast Group across its 62 stations, the group announced April 22.
TV Technology reported that the show will be able to reach 37.5 percent of U.S. TV households and will air "on Sinclair's Fox, ABC, NBC and CBS affiliates nationwide." The magazine added, "the 30-minute program, which will be based in Washington, D.C., will be a blend of investigative and political journalism, with a focus on accountability, according to Sinclair. Attkisson will join Sinclair in June, and the show is expected to launch in the fall of 2015."
Media Matters has documented Attkisson's long history of sloppy and inaccurate reporting, including her confused allegation that someone in the government broke into her computers. After leaving CBS, Attkisson has been producing reports for the conservative Daily Signal, which continue to be plagued by her inaccurate reporting.
Sinclair Broadcasting has often injected conservative messages into their news broadcasts. A few days before the 2004 election, Sinclair reportedly ordered its stations to pre-empt regular programming in order to air a film leveling several false allegations against Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.
The Washington Post reported this week that WJLA, ABC's Washington, D.C., affiliate, has taken a "subtle but noticeable turn to the right" since being taken over by the Sinclair Broadcasting Group. This conservative tilt was on full display this week when the channel ran a news package promoting a baseless conspiracy theory about Benghazi from reporter Sharyl Attkisson.
The Washington Post piece highlighted the concerns of some staff members of local ABC affiliate WJLA, that following the finalization of the sale to Sinclair in August 2014, "some of the stories ordered by Sinclair on a 'must-run' basis don't meet the station's long tradition of non-partisan reporting." One factor in this shift to conservative partisan reporting was announced in July prior to the sale, when Sinclair hired discredited journalist Sharyl Attkisson as an "independent freelance reporter" to "focus on stories that follow the money and waste watch type of investigations."
However, prior to the September 17 opening hearing of the House Benghazi Special Committee, Attkisson ran a dubious report for Sinclair that appeared on WJLA highlighting the unverifiable claims of former State Department employee Raymond Maxwell alleging that some documents were intentionally withheld from the Accountability Review Board investigating the terrorist attacks in Benghazi:
The same day Attkisson's report ran on WJLA, Attkisson appeared on Fox News Channel's Fox & Friends where she reiterated the report's unsubstantiated accusations. Host Steve Doocy lamented that only a handful of outlets such as Fox and the Daily Signal -- the Heritage Foundation website to which Attkisson occasionally contributes -- were covering this latest so-called "Benghazi bombshell." Attkisson concluded the segment by mentioning that her report was also broadcast to "maybe 30 million local news viewers" through Sinclair's affiliate stations.
Although Sinclair's support of right-wing misinformation has been widely documented and criticized for many years, its increasing influence in local media bodes ill for objective journalism at stations like WJLA.
Sinclair Broadcast Group, the country's largest operator of local television stations, is purchasing seven broadcast TV stations and NewsChannel 8, a regional cable news network, from Allbriton Communications. Sinclair has a history of using its stations to promote a conservative messages and also attempted to influence the 2004 election in favor of the Republican Party.
According to the New York Times, Sinclair plans to purchase the stations for $985 million and "explore the rollout of a national cable news channel using NewsChannel 8 as its core." The purchase includes WJLA, the ABC network affiliate in the Washington, D.C. media market. The Times reports that Sinclair's stations reach "about 35 percent of households in the United States."
In the past, Sinclair has used its stations to promote a conservative, anti-progressive message.
Obama's lawyers are attempting to financially ruin individuals party to the most absurd soap opera involving the 44th president. There is unabated controversy regarding his birth, citizenship and foreign travel. Obama could immediately silence his critics by authorizing the release of his original birth certificate and passport. One has to wonder what could possibly be in either document that has caused Obama to wage a fierce and expensive legal battle to keep the files secreted. Aside from Joan Rivers, nearly every American would willingly make their birth certificate available and Obama's stubborn refusal to do so only adds to the controversy.
Mark Hyman's five-part series on Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans used an incomplete and distorted narrative of events prior to Hurricane Katrina's August 29, 2005, landfall in order to shift responsibility for the Katrina fiasco away from the Bush administration and onto New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (D) and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D).
Sinclair Broadcast Group commentator Mark Hyman selectively quoted Clinton-era editorials from The New York Times to support his false claim that the Times dismissed as "a simple mistake" the acquisition by a Clinton administration official of the FBI background reports of Republican former White House officials, an incident that became known as "Filegate." In fact, the Times editorial board stated that "[i]t remains hard to believe that these Democratic Party operatives accidentally stumbled onto" the FBI background documents. Hyman made his false claim in support of his assertion that the Times editors "had a different opinion" of domestic spying when it came to Filegate compared with their opinion of President Bush's warrantless domestic wiretapping program, which they have criticized.
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