A documentary from the conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group’s flagship television station blaming progressive prosecutors for much of Baltimore’s homicide rate was criticized for providing an incomplete picture and ignoring “the role of systemic racism.” This new documentary follows a more heavily criticized one from another Sinclair station in 2019 which demonized people experiencing homelessness in Seattle.
Sinclair’s WBFF released Baltimore is Dying on June 29 and posted the video to its website on July 1. On July 2, Sinclair announced this documentary will also be available to its nationwide audience through its video streaming service, Stirr. The Baltimore-based documentary focuses on several murders from gun violence and highlights corrupt police officers. But it also attempts to place much of the blame for the city’s violent crime problem on progressive prosecutors while ignoring other relevant factors, a tactic currently fashionable among right-wing media.
The Baltimore Sun’s television critic David Zurawik took issue with this framing in his June 29 column, which reviewed the Sinclair documentary and one on the same topic from a competitor, WBAL. Zurawik wrote that the Sinclair station was “doing Republican talking points” instead of “explanatory journalism”:
The WBFF production is technically solid. But I have problems with some of the ways blame is apportioned.
Halfway through the report, the narration says, “progressive policies from a crusading state’s attorney are tying the hands of officers who want to keep the peace.”
The theme is hit again later: “That brings us back to the city that is dying. So many symptoms: progressive policies releasing criminals, police citizens don’t trust. The list keeps growing.”
If WBFF wants to blame the violence on “progressive policies,” that’s fine. And they can go ahead and present Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby as the poster prosecutor. But if you are going to explore the pain of crime, give your viewers a fuller answer that includes some explanation of the role of systemic racism. Without that, you are not doing explanatory journalism. You are doing Republican talking points, the kind that try to make Baltimore into an example of what you get with decades of Democratic rule.
There is no such ideological taint to WBAL’s “Building a Better Baltimore.”
This is not the first such Sinclair production. In 2019, Sinclair’s Seattle station KOMO produced a widely criticized local special on homelessness, similarly titled Seattle Is Dying. The special repeatedly used dehumanizing language about the people it covered, and a Sinclair host used the special to cast blame on the city’s progressive leaders. In December 2020, KOMO produced a sequel titled Fight for the Soul of Seattle, which drew “harsh criticism from local homeless advocates” according to MyNorthwest.