The right-wing local news empire growing in Baltimore

Last week, the executive chairman of conservative local news behemoth Sinclair announced he had personally purchased The Baltimore Sun. With this deal, David D. Smith now assumes control of Maryland’s largest newspaper — serving the same community as Sinclair’s flagship station, WBFF/Fox45, which has been operating in Baltimore for decades.

For MSNBC, I detailed the laundry list of evidence that Smith is more than willing to use his resources to put a thumb on the scale for Republican causes, especially during presidential election years. Indeed, in the days since his purchase of the Sun was announced, Smith has already repeatedly used Trumpian rhetoric about supposed media bias and even disparaged the Pulitzer Prize-winning Sun’s local reporting. While it remains to be seen how the Sun may change under Smith’s ownership, anyone concerned with right-wing media bias ought to keep an eye on the changing local media landscape in Baltimore.

Taken all together, Smith’s media tour and first meeting with Sun staff this week should ring further alarm bells. In the days since the Sun acquisition was announced, Smith has repeatedly decried the media in Trumpian terms not unlike those of the Sinclair must-runs of 2018. In an interview with Sun business reporter Lorraine Mirabella, Smith “criticized ‘mainstream media’ in general for focusing on issues he said affect only a few people … adding that he finds it ‘curious that the mainstream media in this town often chooses not to cover things that affect everybody,’ in particular concerning problems and corruption in government.”


In a lengthy and reportedly tense meeting with Sun staff on Tuesday, Smith repeated this criticism — while also admitting he hadn’t read his own hometown paper “in 40 years,” except for “maybe four times” since he started the acquisition process. He also reportedly told staff he stood by a statement he made in 2018 calling print media “so left wing as to be meaningless dribble” and indicated he felt largely the same about the Sun. Instead, Smith suggested that Sun staff emulate the reporting of Fox45.

In an ever-changing news environment, Americans reliably place a higher level of trust in their local outlets than in other sources, particularly for information they need to get involved in their community or to vote. Smith has shown a willingness and desire to exploit that trust for political gain. Will he take it even further in his own backyard?