Sinclair Broadcast Group has pulled its funding for the National Press Photographers Association’s (NPPA) legal advocacy program after the trade group’s board of directors criticized Sinclair earlier this week. NPPA, a trade association that advocates for the legal rights of visual journalists, was one of several journalism and press freedom groups that criticized media giant Sinclair Broadcast Group after Deadspin published a video earlier this week showing dozens of broadcasters at Sinclair-owned news stations reading the exact same script criticizing “fake news” and national media that “push their own personal bias and agenda.” NPPA’s board of directors issued a statement on April 4 that said the “coordinated message” delivered by Sinclair news anchors denigrated journalists, blurred the division between opinion and fact and was “an affront to widely held journalistic standards.” The statement also said, “We urge all media companies and our members to always be mindful of the manner in which we criticize the work of other journalists. It has the power to be constructive and lift up our industry, or destructive, further eroding the public’s trust in us.”
NPPA reports that on April 5, Sinclair Broadcasting announced it would not be donating $25,000 to NPPA’s legal advocacy program, reneging on a pledge. Sinclair has previously provided ongoing support to NPPA for advocacy and education on First Amendment issues.
In responding to the criticism of Sinclair by NPPA and other journalism groups, Scott Livingston, Sinclair’s VP for news, said the message shown in the Deadspin video had been a promotional message for “our journalistic initiative for fair and objective reporting.”
Reporter Brian Stelter of CNN had reported in March that employees at some of the 173 stations Sinclair owns across U.S. objected to internal memos instructing their newsrooms to read the media-bashing promos. The memos instructed anchors to read the promotional script frequently “to create maximum impact” and to use the scripts “exactly as they are written.” The memos also instructed anchors how to dress.
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