Sunday, December 19, 2004

Bah, Hyman!

In his last "Point" commentary before launching into his year-end “best of” series, Mark Hyman takes a moment to thank all of those with whom he’s worked over the last year.

We’re just wondering, Mark: does that include Jon Lieberman? The former first-string political reporter for Sinclair was axed personally by Hyman after he had the temerity to point out that airing a one-sided documentary that engaged in character assassination on John Kerry didn’t qualify as “news.” As Lieberman himself has noted, this is simply one example of the right-wing, fear-based managerial style of those in the Sinclair boardroom.

There are plenty of other examples. We’ve been fortunate enough to hear from a number of ex-Sinclair employees who’ve had their own horror stories to tell. One local newsman had broadcasted with the same CBS affiliate for nearly a quarter century, until Sinclair bought up the station. He described the Sinclair-ites as being “like the Mafia.” They decided he was expendable, so they did away with his job, not even allowing him to bid farewell to the viewers he had served for so long.

Another ex-Sinclair employee didn’t even wait to get shown the door. Without having a new job to go to, he quit his position as a behind-the-scenes newsman because he was appalled at Sinclair’s complete lack of concern over journalistic quality. They slashed the existing news staff, replacing them with young, green employees who they could hire for cheap. Sure, the quality of the news suffered, but who cared? It’s not like the airwaves are a public trust or anything, right?

Despite Hyman’s warm and fuzzy words, he’s the embodiment of Ebenezer Scrooge. It’s clear from Sinclair’s public actions and what we’ve heard privately from those who have or continue to work at Siclair-owned stations that this is a company that’s run with only the interests of those at the top of the company in mind. The viewing public can go to hell, and anyone below corporate vice-president is completely expendable—which they’ll soon find out if they breathe a word of dissent.

Perhaps the ghost of Edward R. Murrow will visit Mark Hyman in his sleep on Christmas Eve and teach him valuable lessons in journalistic integrity. Mark will bound out of bed Christmas morn, hustle down to Sinclair corporate headquarters, and announce that from now on, Sinclair will be in the business of reporting the facts, exposing abuses of the public trust, and aim at becoming so honest that they’ll make Walter Cronkite look like Geraldo Rivera. Anyone in the company who has an idea will be encouraged to share it, for the betterment of the whole Sinclair family. And raises for everyone!

But let’s face it: that probably won’t happen. For now, let’s just hope Santa brings Hyman and the other bigwigs at Sinclair what they so richly deserve, and what they’ve been giving their own employees and viewers for some time now: a big hunk of coal in their stocking.

And that’s the Holiday Counterpoint.


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