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The Sinclair controversy: Why we need to get over ‘fake news’

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Rebecca Mennecke

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Ballin’ on a Budget
September 17, 2018

John Oliver, the host of ‘Last Week Tonight’ said journalists at Sinclair appear to be “a brainwashed cult”

Journalists+work+hard+to+bring+truthful+news%2C+and+they%E2%80%99re+tired+of+being+attacked+for+their+livelihood+in+a+field+that+is%2C+by+nature%2C+biased.
Journalists work hard to bring truthful news, and they’re tired of being attacked for their livelihood in a field that is, by nature, biased.

Journalists work hard to bring truthful news, and they’re tired of being attacked for their livelihood in a field that is, by nature, biased.

Journalists work hard to bring truthful news, and they’re tired of being attacked for their livelihood in a field that is, by nature, biased.

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Recently, journalists and reporters of Sinclair were forced to read a scripted statement regarding “fake news” on each of the company’s reporting platforms.

“We work very hard to seek the truth and strive to be fair, balanced and factual… We consider it our honor, our privilege to responsibly deliver the news every day,” the statement said.

The statement also said that their reporting “might fall short” at providing that objective information. They urged viewers to reach out and respond to the news sources about any suspected bias.

Boy, did the mainstream media suspect bias.

Former CBS anchor Dan Rather was quick to call the statement the epitome of anti-democratic journalism.

“News anchors looking into the camera and reading a script handed down by a corporate overlord — a script meant to obscure the truth, not elucidate it — is not journalism,” he said. “It is propaganda. It is Orwellian. It is on a slippery slope toward some of history’s most destructive forces.”

Cliff Schecter, an Op/Ed columnist for The New York Times mirrored Rather’s beliefs.

“When you understand Sinclair management and the ways that it manipulates news, and take in the full ideological context, you see it for what it is: anti-journalism, or propaganda,” Schecter wrote in his article.

Trump responded to the controversy via his usual route on Twitter in support of Sinclair, saying:

“The Fake News Networks, those that knowingly have a sick and biased AGENDA, are worried about the competition and quality of Sinclair Broadcast. The “Fakers” at CNN, NBC, ABC & CBS have done so much dishonest reporting that they should only be allowed to get awards for fiction!” he said.

This is unsurprising, considering that Sinclair leans more conservative on the political spectrum.

However, much as Sinclair might lean to the right, I don’t think that’s license to call the journalists on their team “a brainwashed cult,” when many of them had no choice but to read the statements or face losing money or their jobs.

We are on a witch hunt for newspaper firms that produce “fake news.” However, “fake news” is something that we cannot avoid. Bias is inherent in human writers and editors as a whole, as even the action of choosing one story over another story to cover insinuates some form of bias.  But because there is bias in a piece, does that make it not truthful?

Additionally, “fake news” is not only a problem with conservatives. It is a leftist issue too. It’s an everyone problem. We need to stop pointing fingers at the other side and figure out a way to produce factual information that does not serve a political agenda, but instead allows viewers to formulate their own opinions on political issues.

Schecter discusses the Fairness Doctrine, a federal policy no longer in implementation which requires that broadcasters discuss both sides of an issue. This is crucial because it allows the American people to formulate fully-educated opinions, rather than the news outlets skewing what people think of as unbiased.

I’m not saying that bringing the Fairness Doctrine back is the only answer to the problem of “fake news,” but at least it’s a solution that doesn’t involve pointing fingers, name-calling and involving ourselves in arguments that get us nowhere.

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About the Writer
Rebecca Mennecke, Chief Copy Editor
Rebecca “Becca” Mennecke is a second-year creative writing student with a minor in journalism and is stoked to be the Chief Copy Editor of The Spectator this semester. When not checking articles and papers for grammatical errors, Becca can be found curled up with a good book, organizing as a form of procrastination, and watching...
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The Sinclair controversy: Why we need to get over ‘fake news’