The deans of more than a dozen journalism schools across the country have signed a letter to the president of Sinclair Broadcast Group condemning the company for forcing local news anchors to read from a script condemning "fake news" and biased reporting by national news outlets.
Deans from 13 college journalism schools, including the University of Maryland, a top feeder school for Sinclair employees, signed a letter in protest of a recent "promo" aired nationally that criticized sensationalized and biased reporting from Sinclair's competitors.
"In making the leap to disparage news media generally — without specifics — Sinclair has diminished trust in the news media overall," the letter obtained by the Poynter Institute reads.
"Ironically, Sinclair’s use of news personnel to deliver commentary — not identified as such — may further erode what has traditionally been one of the strongest allegiances in the news landscape, the trust that viewers put in their local television stations," it continues.
The letter comes after the right-leaning news company faced widespread criticism from journalists and others on social media over the promos, which were read by dozens of news anchors at stations around the U.S.
A Deadspin compilation showing news anchors side-by-side reading the same script in unison went viral and was deemed "Orwellian" by former CBS News anchor Dan Rather, among others.
"News anchors looking into camera and reading a script handed down by a corporate overlord, words meant to obscure the truth not elucidate it, isn't journalism," Rather tweeted.
"It's propaganda. It's Orwellian. A slippery slope to how despots wrest power, silence dissent, and oppress the masses."
A Sinclair executive defended the decision to air the promo in a statement this week, saying it was part of Sinclair's "commitment to our communities." The executive said the promo was "focused on fact-based reporting" and a "well-researched journalistic initiative."
Sinclair also told Poynter in response to the letter on Saturday that "we understand that the promo prompted an emotional response, and we’ll learn from that in the future."
“We value the connections our anchors have with their communities and trust that they will continue reporting local news for their viewers as only they know how to do," Sinclair Vice President for News Scott Livingston told Poynter.
President TrumpDonald TrumpOhio Republican who voted to impeach Trump says he won't seek reelection Youngkin breaks with Trump on whether Democrats will cheat in the Virginia governor's race Trump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race MORE also weighed in on the debate, defending the network's conservative viewpoint while bashing national news networks.
"So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased. Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke," he tweeted on Monday.
-Updated 2:09 p.m.