Sinclair Rejects Criticism Of Election Specials

The group owner says the show, criticized by some as having an anti-Obama bias, was “hard-hitting, but it was fair.”

Sinclair Broadcast Group’s top news executive is defending half-hour election eve specials that aired in six markets and were criticized as having an anti-Obama bias.

“No doubt it was hard-hitting, but it was fair,” said VP of News Scott Livingston, who oversees the local news operations of 42 Sinclair stations. “No one is disputing the facts of the stories that aired in the special.”

The specials were actually one special with common segments customized for each market by the use of local anchors. The six markets where the program aired were all in battleground states: Columbus and Dayton, both Ohio; Cedar Rapids-Waterloo-Dubuque, Iowa; Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C.-Ashville, N.C.; and West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce and Pensacola, both Florida. (See the video of WPEC West Palm Beach’s special here.)

In Columbus (DMA 32), the ABC affiliate WSYX aired the program twice, once in World News with Diane Sawyer’s 6:30 p.m. timeslot and at 11:30 p.m., when Nightline usually airs. It was up to each station to decide when to air the show, Livingston said.

According the Livingston, the special focused on major issues such as the economy, healthcare reform and foreign policy “including the attacks in Libya” as part of Sinclair’s “continuation of the engagement of the audience and the process of educating them about the topics.”

But the day after it ran — Election Day — the special was being panned, particularly by the political journalism website Talking Points Memo, for its conservative bias.

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“Rather than a side-by-side comparison of the two major party candidates …, the special featured some of the most partisan criticisms of President Barack Obama, and spent relatively little time examining Republican nominee Mitt Romney,” TPM’s Eric Lach wrote.

When the special turned to healthcare reform, WSYX Columbus anchor Bob Kendrick said: “The cost of Obamacare is making many Americans sick to their stomach.”

“[A]t times, it sounded more like Fox News than local news,” Lach said.

Livingston said no partisan agenda was at play in producing the show — nor in choosing the markets in which it was played.

Livingston said Sinclair chose the six markets in which the specials aired because “there is a higher news value there — and we always make decisions based on the news value. These are the markets where those issues resonate.”

He also said the election specials were in keeping with Sinclair stations’ election season coverage, which included 13 town hall meetings on issues “that impacted the race.”

Some Sinclair stations produced their own specials. WBFF, the Fox affiliate in Baltimore, for example, produced a one-hour special on three controversial local ballot initiatives, he said.

Sinclair is well known for its conservative political views. During the 2004 presidential election, the group came under fire for its plan to air a controversial documentary that asserted that anti-war activity by John Kerry during the Vietnam war contributed to the mistreatment of American POWs.


Comments (9)

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Gregg Palermo says:

November 8, 2012 at 9:21 am

Who cares? It didn’t affect the election. Santa Claus won.

    Jill Hatzioannou says:

    November 8, 2012 at 9:35 am

    Santa Claus beat the Tooth Fairy? Now that’s news.

Angie McClimon says:

November 8, 2012 at 9:38 am

Sinclair pulled that maneuver again? Have some class and neutrality, Sinclair. Idiots.

Christina Fleming says:

November 8, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Sinclair is sick, dumb, mean and they believe they can run lies and influence an election. All advertisers should boycott Sinclair for being un-American, the same as they were with Kerry, when they ran non stop lies about him. Al investors should sell their stock, i have and will never buy there stock or watch a program on their channels. Their investors should revolt if they cared about share holders and were not just scared what Smith would do to them.

Joanne McDonald says:

November 8, 2012 at 3:19 pm

I would love to see Barrington, Belo, Cox, Gannett, Gray, Hearst, Hubbard, Journal, LIN, Local TV LLC, Meredith, Morris, Post Newsweek, Raycom, Scripps, and other broadcasters being allowed to acquired any of the TV stations Sinclair owned and control at fire sale prices.

I feel ABC should reaffiliate with both Local TV LLC’s KTVI 2 of Saint Louis Missouri and WGHP 8 of Greensboro High Point North Carolina like they were before being switch over to FOX in the 1990’s with FOX being allowed to affiliate with Tribune’s KPLR 11 and Titan’s WCWG 20 and Sinclair gets the CW affiliation on both KDNL 30 and WXLV 45 to as punishment for both David Smith and Sinclair for their decision to pull a political crap of their own so many times in the past and present.

Harry Pappas and his Pappas Telecasting has also done some political controversies as well in the past.

    Just Fine says:

    November 9, 2012 at 12:55 am

    Actually wouldn’t mind Belo buying the Sinclair affiliate around the 757. WVEC buying WTVZ would make it a three-station group market again (LIN’s WAVY/WVBT and Local’s WTKR/WGNT). Not going to happen, but a boy can dream.

Just Fine says:

November 9, 2012 at 12:56 am

The special didn’t air here. One of the perks of Sinclair not having a news team on MyTVZ.

mary keller says:

November 11, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Many years ago a very liberal friend noted that ” They who preach tolerance the loudest are themselves the most intolerant.”
Heaven help you if you voice any viewpoint contrary to NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, New York Times, LA Times, Washington Post, etc.

Gabriel Alcantar says:

November 13, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Amen, Realist!!! Exactly right!


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