Pierce: Sinclair is actively undermining journalists — including those at KUTV

<b>Scott D. Pierce • </b>Station group’s efforts have backfired and burned those ordered to read controversial statement.

(Courtesy Deadspin) This screenshot of Deadspin's video showing dozens of anchors at Sinclair Broadcast Group stations across the country features KUTV's Shauna Lake and and Mark Koelbel (second column from right, third box down).

The Sinclair Broadcast Group’s campaign against so-called fake news has gotten away from it, embarrassing its ownership, management and employees, including those at KUTV-Channel 2.

Not just anchors Mark Koelbel and Shauna Lake, who read the Sinclair script and became part of Deadspin’s viral video of dozens of anchors reading the same statement. KUTV’s reporters have been questioned about their objectivity and integrity.

KUTV reporter Chris Jones tweeted, “I believe in journalism. I don’t serve an ideology, I serve the truth.” In response, he received tweets like, “If you believe that then you’ll quit” and “How can you profess to believe in journalistic integrity and work for [Sinclair]? I can’t trust KUTV any longer.”

It’s easy to tell KUTV staffers to resign in protest, but Bloomberg reported that Sinclair’s contracts would cost them as much as 40 percent of their annual salary as a penalty and include noncompete clauses.

It’s unfair to call out KUTV employees for going to work for Sinclair. Lake joined the station in 1994, Koelbel in 1997; Sinclair completed its purchase of Channel 2 in 2012.

And, off the record, KUTV staffers have expressed frustration with station ownership.

Former KSTU-Channel 13 anchorman Nick Clooney took aim at the Sinclair-owned Ohio station where he also anchored. “I have no idea what these folks are doing for a living, but it isn’t news,” he told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “To borrow the credibility of the anchor and the reporter is beyond the pale.”

Longtime KSL anchorman Dick Nourse, who retired in 2007 after 43 years behind the anchor desk, told The Tribune he believes Koelbel’s and Lake’s “entire reputations are at stake. I feel this will backfire on them, and I’m sorry.”

Yes, Sinclair can editorialize on its station. But have management do it. Not journalists. Don’t blur the lines.

It’s not altogether the Sinclair-mandated statement that’s the problem. It’s what that statement exposed — Sinclair’s long history of propagandizing.

Sinclair’s senior vice president of news, Scott Livingston, issued a statement that “It is ironic that we would be attacked for messages promoting our journalistic initiative for fair and objective reporting.”

That’s classic misdirection. Sinclair is under attack for its hypocrisy and political advocacy masquerading as news. For undermining John Kerry, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and promoting George W. Bush and Donald Trump. For abetting the president’s efforts to undermine the free press.

“This is simply some dirty propaganda at work,” Nourse said, adding, “This sounds like ... an attempt to undermine true and fact-based news” in favor of “Trump’s ‘fake news.’”

Trump recently tweeted his support for Sinclair, an endorsement no actual journalist wants.

Sinclair executive chairman David Smith sounded positively Trumpian when he emailed New York magazine, “The print media is so left wing as to be meaningless dribble which accounts for why the industry is and will fade away. Just no credibility.”

That would be the print media that’s reporting on Smith’s efforts to circumvent FCC regulations in his ongoing efforts to buy the Tribune Media stations.

Journalism matters. And Sinclair poses a significant threat to journalism.

Editor’s note: The Salt Lake Tribune is a content partner with KUTV.