Most Sinclair journalists didn't sign up to be part of the Trump cheering section.
Spooked at the idea of working for Trump TV, and fearful that the Sinclair Broadcasting Group’s reach is expanding, more employees are speaking out. They’re raising concerns about the local news behemoth’s influence and the unethical ways it’s being used.
The most recent report came from Providence, where Sinclair’s moves at WJAR have “rattled viewers and WJAR’s own news reporters.” Like so many, those Sinclair reporters are rattled at the idea of stations being forced to constantly carry pro-Donald Trump commentaries during local newscasts, even though WJAR broadcasts to one of the bluest states in America.
Those WJAR staffers aren’t alone, as Media Matters recently noted.
In an August report from The Guardian, a former Sinclair employee detailed an “improper work environment,” comprised of a “sexual atmosphere that trickled down to different levels in the company,” in her time there.
Also this summer, Bloomberg Businessweek interviewed nearly two dozen current and former Sinclair employees who detailed ways Sinclair bosses interfered with the news process.
Just recently, the Communications Workers of America untion urged the Federal Communications Commission to deny the proposed merger between Sinclair and the Tribune Media Company.
Unlike staffers who sign up for partisan warfare when they go to work for Fox News or Breitbart or other openly, pro-GOP outlets, lots of Sinclair employees only end up working for the company after the rapidly expanding broadcast giant purchases the stations those employees work at. From most people in the local news business, hearing that Sinclair has purchased your station means tough times ahead.
More and more employees may be soon be getting that bad news. Sinclair currently owns or operates 173 local TV stations in 33 states, making it the largest local news provider in the country. If the FCC approves its pending purchase of Tribune Media, Sinclair will soon pick up major market stations in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
Sinclair has a long, sad history of treating its employees poorly, and specifically of coming in after buying properties and completely gutting newsrooms. The tradition stretches back decades.
Aside form its heavy-handed partisan tilt, Sinclair is known from being extremely cheap, implementing drastic cost cutting, and demanding centralized programming which takes decision-making away from local stations and communities. That centralizing programming including forcing stations around the country to carry daily, right-wing political commentaries that sound like outtakes from “Fox & Friends.” The stations provide no time for counter opinions.
Over a decade ago in St. Louis, Sinclair fired the entire 47-person news team at KDNL, making it among the first major-market television stations to broadcast without local news, Salon once reported. At Sinclair's Rochester, New York, station, the company fired the entire news, weather and sports anchor team, and half of the remaining staff.
And after Sinclair purchased WCWB in Pittsburgh, the company dropped its three public affairs programs, including "Girl Scouting Today," and replaced them with infomercials.
If Sinclair is allowed to swallow up Tribune Media, more local news journalists may soon be grappling with the company's unethical, Trump-happy ways.