Sinclair Management Is Making Its Employees Downright Miserable: Report
Sinclair Broadcasting employees worry they're being surveilled and that management could seek retribution against them, according to a new report by the HuffPost's Eliot Nelson. Sinclair has come under scrutiny this week after it was revealed the right-wing telecommunications company forced its local television anchors to read a promo to viewers denouncing the proliferation of "fake news"—a message that effectively amounted to propaganda for the Trump administration. While a handful of Sinclair television personalities have protested, the majority have stood by in silence, fearful that any form of criticism might cost them their jobs.
Their concerns appear to be well-founded. Several Sinclair reporters speaking on a condition of anonymity denounce a corporate culture that breeds mistrust if not outright paranoia. The company's employee handbook stipulates that Sinclair “may monitor, intercept, and review, without further notice" all activity on its communications systems, and that workers "should not have any expectation of personal privacy in any communication using Company owned equipment."
While labor lawyers tell HuffPost this kind of language is relatively common, Sinclair staffers maintain its enforcement is unusually stringent. “There’s a lot held over us,” a journalist at a local affiliate confides. “They pay attention to what websites we’re on.” The anonymous journalist also notes that Sinclair monitors employees' social media accounts "with a magnifying glass."
Sinclair's monitoring of employee activities is not confined to emails, phone calls and social media feeds. Newsroom staff complain that management routinely overrides their editorial decisions, "meddling in how they present their stories and graphics, and sometimes going so far as to delete offensive comments on an affiliate’s online articles before that station’s own web editors have a chance to do so."
Since Deadspin published its supercut of local anchors reciting the same anti-media screed verbatim, Sinclair executives have been especially eager to quell anything approaching dissent among the ranks. In an internal memo obtained by the TV News website FTVLive, Robert Truman, the general manager for KATU in Portland, Oregon, exhorted staff not to speak to the press, adding, “I will also remind you that giving statements to the media or sharing negative information about the company can have huge implications."
Sinclair's directive poses a conundrum for journalists perhaps best captured by Norma Holland of "Good Day Rochester" in a recent Facebook post. “The Sinclair message you saw me and my colleagues in has damaged the trust you place in us—a trust that’s taken, me in particular, 22 years to build. That hurts,” she wrote. “I could have chosen to quit, but who among us has an alternate career in their back pocket ready to go?...I have a family to support. That’s not an excuse—that’s reality.”
As the owner and operator of 193 television stations in 100 markets, Sinclair is a veritable broadcasting empire, reaching approximately 40 percent of American households. If its merger with Tribune Media is approved, that figure would stand at 72 percent.