The National Press Photographers Association says Sinclair Broadcasting has rescinded a "promised" $25,000 donation to its legal advocacy program after it made a public statement critical of Sinclair's coordinated "fake news" warning.
Sinclair has defended the on-air fake news warning as just trying to promote its local news differentiating it from the unmoderated social media echo-chamber that it says other outlets report as news.
"On-camera personalities – who, to viewers, are the trusted faces of news departments – were used by Sinclair to disseminate their coordinated message," the group said in that statement. "In newsrooms, the division between opinion and fact is a sacred one. Borrowing the credibility of those employees for this messaging could be construed as an affront to widely-held journalistic standards. Our Code of Ethics instructs: "Avoid political, civic and business involvements or other employment that compromise or give the appearance of compromising one's own journalistic independence."
The group also pointed out that Sinclair had provided it ongoing financial support in recent years and that they employed
"scores of exceptionally talented photojournalists, editors, "MMJs" and reporters who – through their hard work and passionate dedication – have shaped our industry's standards for quality storytelling, have led our workshops, and have consistently won awards in our contests."
Following the statement, Sinclair SVP of News Scott Livingston reached out to NPPA President Michael King to give their side of the flap. "There’s nothing alarming about the message," he told King, according to NPAA. "The message reinforces our commitment to objective and fair storytelling, and I don’t like the fact that our people are being attacked unfairly. This was based on research. This was designed as a news promo: a message of integrity and accuracy. It’s about having our viewers help keep us honest. We do commentary, but we don’t have anchors do commentary. The script reinforces what we stand for – we stand for objective, fair reporting. Local news is at the heart of Sinclair. We have one agenda: to serve our local communities. There’s a real commitment on a national level to quality storytelling.”
But the group said that less than a day later, Sinclair told them it was nixing the donation.
"While we are disappointed by this action, NPPA will not be deterred from our commitment to our Code of Ethics, and we will not be deterred from our commitment to advocating for First Amendment, copyright, and other important issues," said the group.
A Sinclair spokesperson was not available for comment at press time.