Former Sinclair news director: Sinclair “co-opt[s] the credibility that local anchors have built up in their communities ... to promote a political agenda”

Aaron Weiss: “It’s the equivalent of a proof-of-life hostage video”

From the April 4 edition of CNN's New Day:

Video file

ALISYN CAMEROTA (CO-HOST): You were at a Sinclair station in 2013, or a station that was bought by Sinclair, and you started to see troubling things. Like what? 

AARON WEISS: That's right. Pretty quickly after the acquisition happened, we started getting these must-run pieces that would come down every day from corporate. They've been well-documented from many places -- 

CAMEROTA: But what were those? Those must-run pieces, what was the subject matter of the things that were being forced down your throat to run? 

WEISS: The must-run pieces were generally political. Some of them were preproduced packages from corporate, some of them were scripts that anchors were expected to read. And the expectation was that they would be read entirely untouched without any oversight, and they were of a quality that for me, as a news director, I would look at these scripts, and if one of my fresh out of college reporters in Market 147 had brought these scripts to me, I would have sent them back. But corporate expected us to run them untouched. 

CAMEROTA: And they had a conservative slant, correct me if I'm wrong. They often had a conservative slant -- 

WEISS: They did. 

CAMEROTA: And did they have anything to do with your local community, the news you were supposed to be covering? 

WEISS: No. They were entirely national, and they did have a conservative slant. And don't get me wrong. I have no problem with conservative-slanted news or liberal-slanted news. But own it. The problem with Sinclair does is they co-opt the credibility that local anchors have built up in their communities over years and decades and use that credibility to promote a political agenda. And that, to me, is what is so ethically inappropriate about what Sinclair does. 

CAMEROTA: So Aaron when you saw that promo that we just ran of all of those different local anchors having to say exactly the same script parroting whatever corporate wanted, what did you think?

WEISS: My heart broke. My heart broke for the anchors who were forced to do that. I know several of them. And as someone who grew up in the local news business -- my mom was an anchor in Tuscon, Arizona, for thirty years, and I imagined if she had been forced to do something like that when I was a kid. And forced to make a decision about her ethics versus feeding her family and keeping a job in a business that she loved, I couldn’t imagine doing it. And so my heart goes out to all those anchors who were forced to basically -- it’s the equivalent of a proof-of-life hostage video.


HuffPo: Confessions Of A Former Sinclair News Director


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