Friday, April 06, 2018

1928 Sinclair Broadcasting Viewed From the Ground

Marty Radovanic retired a few months ago.  Marty worked for a local TV news department in the Altoona-Johnstown area of central Pennsylvania for 43 years. His station had been purchased by Sinclair Broadcasting about five years ago.

As you no doubt know, Sinclair is the largest owner of local television channels in the country.  Just shy of 180 of them. And they’re working on acquiring the 43 more -- now owned by the Chicago Tribune.

As you no doubt also know, Sinclair’s been in the news lately for forcing right wing propaganda stories produced at headquarters on its local outlets. And for putting what amount to partial truths into the mouths of its anchors and reporters… partial truths about “fair” and “real” coverage what would have had George Orwell and Sigmund Freud’s heads spinning.

Ah, yes. It’s only business, as Don Corleone would say.

But what does all this have to do with Marty? Good question.  Marty was the posterboy for Trusted Local Newsguy.  A little rumpled.  A little out of fashion.  But you knew him.  You watched him. You believed him.

You waved to him from across the street. He had no idea who you were but he’d wave back.

He reported on the relatively big stuff -- a Johnstown flood in the 1970s.  And little stuff -- like his own cancer diagnosis.  The Martys of the TV news world get to be family.

Did his retirement have something to do with age… or with the diagnosis… or Sinclair’s ham-handed handling of its acquisitions?

Open questions. No real answers. But none of the answers would surprise anyone. They’d all be legit.  The Martys of the world take their jobs seriously.  Sometimes, they get bigger than their stations.  And stations (and networks) don’t know how to handle that. But they know they don’t like it.

CBS couldn’t handle Rather or Cronkite or Murrow.  NBC couldn’t handle Huntley or Brinkley or Brokaw.  ABC couldn’t handle Jennings. And the day is not too distant when Fox can’t handle Shepard Smith.

So though he’d likely deny it, Sinclair couldn’t handle Marty.  Unhandleable newscasters? The only way to quash them is to make them disappear.  That they can do. Is that what happened here?  Maybe.

Marty ain’t Lester Holt (NBC) or Anthony “Captain Dull” Mason (CBS) or even the infantile motormouth David Muir (ABC.) And Altoona isn’t exactly big time. It’s the 107th largest TV market in the country.  But in context, it’s big stuff.

Yes because they’re force feeding America fairytales. But let’s fact check the happy ending.

--Have you noticed the recent proliferation of headlines that ask you something instead of telling you something?  It’s not just the little papers in flyover country. It’s some of the biggest papers in the country.

--The New York Times, the Associated Press and they’re starting to creep onto the front page of the Washington Post.  Click bait.  And easy to write, which is a good thing since most papers and wire services no longer have specialists to do the heads.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2018

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