Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Sinclair Sounds Like An Evil Place To Work

A still from that Sinclair News Group "hostage video" in which anchors
at local television stations were ordered to read a pro-Trump fake news
script to their viewers. 
I'm sure many of you have heard the hue and cry about Sinclair.... the parent company of  lot of local television stations who forced all those local anchors to parrot Donald Trump's "fake news" talking points. (read: lies.)

This was made wildly famous earlier this month by that viral video that came from Deadspin of all those anchors from Sinclair-owned stations being forced to read a "hostage video" script about how every news outlet except Sinclair, supposedly, is biased fake news.

You can see this video for yourself at the bottom of this post. I'll quote a key line from the video.

"Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control 'exactly what people think'.......This is extremely dangerous to a democracy."

So instead, the Sinclair Trumpian overlords used their corporate platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control what the people think - which is extremely dangerous to a democracy.

But, whatever.

Sinclair owns 193 local television stations and is looking to buy many more, apparently in an effort to sell their right wing bullshit at the expense of accurate local news. And since there are often no local alternatives for viewers, Sinclair believes they can brainwah the viewing public.

Besides all this awful stuff, Sinclair sounds like a terrible, terrible, place to work.

First of all, most journalists, certainly including local television journalists, pride themselves on accurate,  hard-hitting reporting that is unbiased as humanly possible.

I was in journalism for year. I get it. We all have our biases, opinions and slants. We're human beings after all. But from Journalism 101 and on through my 20-year career as a reporter, it was always ingrained in me to follow the fact where they led, question everything, be skeptical and do everything I could to purge my internal biases from my reporting.

A group of Sinclair local anchors wrote about their outrage about being forced to read the script in a Vox article last week:

"For many of us, that was the death knell. The perception among much of the public was that Sinlar was Trump TV. Now it felt like that perception was a reality. Had Trump's seal of approval put is in the same camp as Infowars and Fox News? This was a place many Sinclair journalists never expected, or wanted to be in. 

A station we've cared about for many years has been stripped of its credibility. The station lost longtime viewers - and respect from the community, its most important asset. And we Sinclair employees have lost respect for our jobs."

So why don't these Sinclair journalists just quit and find work somewhere else?

The answer gets into why Sinclair is such an evil company for employees. The anonymous Sinclair journalists writing for Vox were anonymous knew that if their names became public, Sinclair would fire them, and worse, make them pay back the corporation thousands of dollars.

That's right.

Various versions of Sinclair employee contracts leaked to the media show that employees who quit the company might be subject to "liquidated damages" which would make them pay Sinclair up to 40 percent of their annual paycheck as penalty.

Now, most television stations, and many companies in general have a non-compete clause.  You'd be restricted from working for a direct competitor, and if you do, your former company can demand money.

But some Sinclair employees, like Jonathan Beaton, quit his job at Sinclair-owned WPEC and took a new job by starting up a public relations firm, which is not in competition with Sinclair or WPEC.

As the Daily Beast and other news outlets point out, this Sinclair contract could well be iffy from a legal standpoint.

"This liquidated damages clause seems highly problematic......In general, such clauses are not enforceable if they are simply punitive; they have to be reasonable attempts to capture likely damages. In the employment contact, this is very unusual," Samuel Estreicher of the Center for Employment Law and New York University told the Daily Beast. 

Former Sinclair employees could then conceivably fight the company in court, but most don't want to invest money and time they don't have for a legal fight.  That's why the anchors in the above-mentioned Vox article want to remain anonymous.

Beaton, though, IS fighting in court.

And, demonstrating how badly Sinclair is into controlling employees, the company is trying to claw back $5,700 for the part of Beaton's unfinished contract. Beaton, writing in HuffPost, tells us he's fighting it. 

First of all Beaton tells us why he quit the Sinclair owned station:

"As reporters and anchors at the company, we were routinely told to follow leads and angles with a clear-cut conservative agenda. At  CBS-12,  (WEPC) I was ordered to do man-on-the-street interviews that were clearly politically biased. I'd ask loaded questions like, 'How much do you disagree with Obama this year?' 

It was disguised as real journalism. The funny thing is, I'm a Republican - and I was still pissed by it. But it was more than just the questions. It was stories we were told to do. They often had to have a religious tie-in. We couldn't do stories, for the most part, that involved the LGBTQ community. There were a set of parameters and we had to stick to them."

So much for Sinclair's anchor hostage tape supposedly decrying fake or biased news, huh?

You'd think a corporation making a profit of $443.5 million in its latest quarterly earnings wouldn't spend a lot of time and litigation trying to get $5,700. But you'd be wrong.

"Sinclair argues that I caused them irreparable harm by leaving. Believe me, I was a good reporter, but not that good," Beaton says.

Of course, there's a larger goal here on the part of Sinclair. Make an example out of Beaton and nobody else will quit. But as Beaton puts it, "I refuse to cower and acquiesce to this malevolent corporation. I'm fighting back."

Good. I'm glad to see some rebellions starting againt Sinclair. If anything good came out of the "hostage video," it's the attention it brought.

Fourteen journalism schools have come out critcizing Sinclair. Budding journalists have been put on notice not to apply for jobs at Sinclair because if they do, they'll face a career of misery. Which means, by attrition, Sinclair will lose its remaining crop of good journalists, and just complete its transformation into an untrustworthy shill for the Trumpians of the world.

And then we can all go on ignoring the blah, blah, blah noise of the Sinclair Trump hornblowers. Buh-bye!

In case you forgot it, here's that "hostage video."

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