On Thursday night, the National Association Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) issued an update about its concerns with Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBG). Here is the media release:
Washington, D.C. – The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) President Hugo Balta relayed concerns on a phone call Thursday morning with Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBG) VP of News Scott Livingston regarding the continued mandate on airing one-sided commentary segments by Boris Epshteyn through local stations. NAHJ feels that on multiple occasions the commentary has included misrepresentations of the Latino community.
Before the conversation transitioned to any concerns from NAHJ, Livingston reiterated Sinclair’s commitment to maintaining a good relationship with the association. Balta also thanked Livingston for his time and dedication to having this important dialogue.
One of the initial points brought up by the NAHJ President included a need for clarity on what is perceived as a synonymous relationship between Sinclair Broadcast Group and employee Epshteyn. In a tweet yesterday, Sinclair had noted the opinions expressed in segments by Boris did not reflect the views of Sinclair Broadcast Group.
When Boris’s segments are aired on our stations, they are labeled clearly as commentary. We also offer our stations reporting from the Beltway and beyond that are not partisan or bias in any way.
— Sinclair Broadcast Group (@WeAreSinclair) November 28, 2018
Livingston explained SBG has run commentary for over 15 years and that there is a disclosure noting the segment as commentary that never disappears from the screen. From Sinclair’s perspective, this disclosure clearly communicates to viewers that the pundit speaking is not a journalist and is strictly opinion-based. The VP of News also noted that Sinclair produces more than 2,400 hours of news every week, providing context and perspective of issues to be an advocate for all viewers.
“I want to thank Hugo and the NAHJ for a very productive and honest conversation,” said Livingston. “Commentary represents 4% of the content our stations put out each week, with the rest dedicated to the stories produced by our team of award-winning, professional journalists. While this is our main focus, we do appreciate the feedback Hugo and others have regarding the commentary segments and are committed to keeping an open dialogue with him and the NAHJ.”
Every day there is 90 seconds of editorial that is required for local news stations to run as priority of content, but at the discretion of local news managers where they see fit in the lineup. Livingston added SBG consistently takes opinions from the internal staff and has a commitment to transparency about the purpose of commentary segments.
“We do agree that the body of Sinclair’s work as a whole is what should be judged and not solely a hyper focus on one 90-second commentary or to Boris’s conservative views,” said Balta. “However, it’s in the best interests of the public that when a news platform is given to one side of an opinion, it is also given to a counterpoint.”
“Anything less is not only unfair, but irresponsible,” he added.
The two leaders felt they had a mutual understanding and respect for today’s conversation and agreed to regroup at the beginning of the new year to continue discussing the production of opinion segments. Livingston once again expressed his appreciation for the association’s willingness to always have a dialogue that is ultimately healthy and productive for the industry.
About NAHJ The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) is the largest organization of Latino journalists in the United States and dedicated to the recognition and professional advancement of Hispanics in the news industry. The mission of NAHJ is to increase the number of Latinos in the newsrooms and to work toward fair and accurate representation of Latinos in news media. Established in April 1984, NAHJ created a national voice and unified vision for all Hispanic journalists. NAHJ has approximately 2,500 members, including working journalists, journalism students, other media-related professionals and journalism educators. For more information please visit NAHJ.org or follow on Twitter @NAHJ.