Sinclair: 'Fake News' Warning Was Simply Quality Differentiator

Sinclair Broadcasting has weighed in on the criticism of its "must read" local anchor warnings about fake news, which drew criticism from some quarters and a ringing defense from President Donald Trump. Sinclair said it was simply reminding their audiences that fake news is out there, but that Sinclair was their source for real and fair news.

"These announcements were responding to the public’s distrust in news generally," the company said in a statement, a distrust it said was confirmed by this Monmouth University poll released today.

Sinclair says the statement "spoke to our commitment to avoid such inaccurate reporting, adding: "The promos served no political agenda, and represented nothing more than an effort to differentiate our award-winning news programming from other, less reliable sources of information."

“We aren’t sure of the motivation for the criticism, but find it curious that we would be attacked for asking our news people to remind their audiences that unsubstantiated stories exist on social media, which result in an ill-informed public with potentially dangerous consequences,” said Scott Livingston, Sinclair SVP of News, in a statement.

Related: Trump Defends Sinclair

President Donald Trump, who has tarred major news outlets with the "fake news" brush reacted by saying Sinclair was superior to CNN and NBC, both of which he has branded fake news. That drew immediate pushback from critics of Sinclair's deal to buy Tribune.

"President Trump’s tweet dismissing opposition to Sinclair’s destruction of local news shows how big media uses its money and power to influence our elected officials ," said Michael Copps, former FCC chairman and a special advisor to Common Cause. "Sinclair’s proposed merger with Tribune would further the company’s efforts to eliminate local news coverage and give it a massive national audience reach."

“Sinclair has long tried to evade the rules preventing it from using the public airwaves to push its reactionary political agenda to a national TV news audience," said Free Press President Craig Aaron. "It's now found a friend and ally in the Trump administration, and is eager to air pro-Trump propaganda in exchange for policy favors that let Sinclair get even bigger.

“It is ironic that we would be attacked for messages promoting our journalistic initiative for fair and objective reporting, and for specifically asking the public to hold our newsrooms accountable," said Smith, generally, of the criticism the statements had generated. "Our local stations keep our audiences’ trust by staying focused on fact-based reporting and clearly identifying commentary.”

Pictured: The anchor team at Sinclair Broadcast Group's KGBT-TV, a CBS affiliate in Rio Grande Valley, Texas, delivering Sinclair's mandatory editorial about fake news.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.