A new, chilling video is making the rounds on the Internet, showing anchors from numerous local news networks owned by the conglomerate Sinclair Broadcast Group being forced to parrot right-wing talking points about "fake news" that could be taken straight from President Trump's Twitter feed.
If the name Sinclair Broadcast Group sounds familiar, it might be because CWA has been fighting hard over the past year against an attempted merger between Sinclair and Tribune Media. The merger would result in one company becoming the largest owner of local broadcast stations in the country, with more than 220 stations in 108 markets. This would extend the reach of Sinclair from 38 percent of U.S. television households to 72 percent. The Sinclair-Tribune merger remains under review at the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission.
"Sinclair has a long history of cutting jobs when it acquires stations, which means more pre-packaged segments and cookie-cutter scripts and less local news coverage that reflects the concerns and interests of the communities that these stations serve," said Charlie Braico, President of NABET-CWA. "This video is the latest evidence of what I and many others have been saying for months: the Sinclair-Tribune merger is not in the public interest and should be denied."
Unfortunately, Sinclair is not an isolated case. In another disturbing demonstration of the dangers of big corporations buying up local media outlets, the secretive hedge fund Alden Global Capital has been quietly buying up newspapers around the country, many employing NewsGuild-CWA members. Its executives are stashing money in notorious tax havens worldwide and operating a complex web of funds and business structures to hide their investors from public view.
Under Alden's reckless management at the U.S.'s second-largest newspaper chain, Digital First Media, newspaper staffing levels have been slashed to the bone. In many cases, Alden is laying off the very journalists who otherwise would investigate and expose this kind of business conduct. Journalism is vital to a healthy democracy, and transparency is essential to accurate, independent reporting and public trust in the news media.
Despite their best efforts, Alden's shady actions are being exposed by diligent reporters.
Investigative journalist Julie Reynolds, who formerly worked at the DFM-acquired Monterey Herald, has been reporting in great depth on Alden for the past few years for #NewsMatters, a project of NewsGuild-CWA. She recently reported that Alden is now facing a lawsuit for siphoning hundreds of millions of dollars from Digital First Media to finance insider investment deals, damaging local news organizations. Read the piece here.
Bloomberg recently published a deep dive into Alden's harmful practices here.