Hands are wringing and teeth are gnashing in some corners at the news that Sinclair Broadcast Group has agreed to purchase Tribune Media Co. in a $3.9 billion deal that includes WDAF-TV, the Kansas City Fox affiliate, along with two St. Louis stations.
We consume a lot of news from local television in this country — more than from cable and national network sources, according to the Pew Research Center. And that worry in the air about Sinclair stems from its unusual top-down policies guiding its outlets’ programming.
Ill-defined “mainstream media” sources take their share of abuse for walking lockstep with their squishy-left viewpoints, though capitalizing on those knocks has also become a cottage industry in the conservative counter-media machine.
But this is also a fiercely competitive business, and the critics look past the constant validation of the nuclear family, good citizenship and demonstrations of religious charity that are mainstays throughout our media diets. In the vast majority of newsrooms today, there’s no bombastic, cigar-chomping boss dictating an editorial slant to his reporters’ work.
At Sinclair, something akin to that sometimes does go on. The broadcast group sends its 173 local stations “must run” video segments, such as commentaries by Soviet Union-born Boris Epshteyn, a former communications coordinator for President Donald Trump. Pundit Mark Hyman’s “Behind the Headlines” videos can veer into internet troll territory, as he taunts “social justice warriors” and “snowflakes” with a puffed chest. Subtle, they’re not. The company is advancing when scandal has shaken the Fox News Channel behemoth.
Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner said last December that the incoming administration had struck a deal with Sinclair for exclusive access. This kind of arrangement between an elected official and a supposedly independent media outlet is unorthodox in our governmental system, to say the least. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to call it un-American.
But there’s hardly a shortage of media outlets to choose from today. We no longer twist the rabbit ears just so to tune in the same three channels. Basic cable lineups stretch to the triple digits, and there are vastly more pieces of niche programming to reflect any worldview than ever before.
All that choice makes it easy to insulate ourselves from viewpoints we find distasteful. We could all use a little more exposure to opinions we disagree with.
When you see that first on-air editorial, you might try to open your mind along with your ears. And if you decide you aren’t buying what Sinclair is selling, put your clicker to the use it was intended for. And don’t be such a snowflake.