Scott Livingston, vice president of news for the Maryland-based Sinclair, did respond to questions about the latest special. He defended the piece, calling the criticism “unfair.”
Livingston said the special, produced by “shared content” from some of the company’s stations, ran on stations in five other cities—WRGT in Dayton, Ohio; KGAN in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; WLOS in Asheville, N.C.; and WPEC in West Palm Beach and WEAR in Pensacola, Fla. (WPEC’s version of the full broadcast is here.) Those cities were chosen because the company felt they had “higher news value” for the piece in those markets, Livingston said—or in other words, they were located in key presidential swing states. I called and emailed the Dayton and West Palm Beach stations for comment, but got no response.
“The only complaints are in Columbus. I think it was because of that [TPM] article,” Livingston said. “It’s important to point out that no one is disputing the facts in the stories. It was a hard-hitting piece that looked at accountability.”
It’s also been noticed here in Ohio. John Kiesewetter, media blogger for the Cincinatti Enquirer, flagged the incident in a post Wednesday morning that asked whether something similar could “happen at WKRC-TV, the top-rated news station here, when Sinclair Broadcast Group takes over Channel 12 in the near future?” As Kiesewetter previously reported, Sinclair struck a deal over the summer to acquire the top station in Cincinnati.
My call to WKRC to ask journalists for their thoughts on the station’s new owner was directed to station manager Les Van, who said the deal with Sinclair would be completed no sooner than December, adding, “I can’t comment further.” But based on Sinclair’s history, the concern Kiesewetter raises is not unfounded.