ATHENS, GA - Recently, Sinclair Broadcast Group has drawn attention and scrutiny for editorial opinions and public comments in which a wide swath of the journalism industry has been accused of extreme bias. The National Press Photographers Association represents thousands of visual journalists who work in print, broadcast and online media, alike. At our very foundation is our Code of Ethics. Communicating and reflecting truth in our reporting and stories is a common value that transcends the medium in which we choose to communicate.
In NPPA's legal advocacy, in our contests, and at our events, we focus on uplifting the excellent work being done by our members and others in journalism. What all ethical journalists do is valuable, vital to democracy, and in some cases quite perilous. They should be appreciated, not denigrated. We expect our fellow journalism associations and businesses within our industry to hold journalists and the work they do in as high regard as we do.
Journalistic competitiveness should – in its best form – be respectful, recognizing that we all practice journalism in an effort to report truthfully on the people and issues of our time. That competition should promote a proliferation of investigative and reporting power that better serves our communities, nation and world. As our Code of Ethics instructs: "Do not intentionally sabotage the efforts of other journalists."
On-camera personalities – who, to viewers, are the trusted faces of news departments – were used by Sinclair to disseminate their coordinated message. In newsrooms, the division between opinion and fact is a sacred one. Borrowing the credibility of those employees for this messaging could be construed as an affront to widely-held journalistic standards. Our Code of Ethics instructs: "Avoid political, civic and business involvements or other employment that compromise or give the appearance of compromising one's own journalistic independence."
Sinclair Broadcast Group has provided ongoing financial support to the NPPA in recent years for very worthwhile advocacy causes, including a 2016 "First Amendment Issues in Public Spaces" symposium. Most importantly, they employ scores of exceptionally talented photojournalists, editors, "MMJs" and reporters who – through their hard work and passionate dedication – have shaped our industry's standards for quality storytelling, have led our workshops, and have consistently won awards in our contests. We are proud to represent those visual journalists and share in the legacy of their efforts.
We implore all media companies to conscientiously consider how we can work together in the future to use our resources and positions of communicative power to protect, improve and celebrate ethical journalism in effective, meaningful and respectful ways. We urge all media companies and our members to always be mindful of the manner in which we criticize the work of other journalists. It has the power to be constructive and lift up our industry, or destructive, further eroding the public's trust in us. A media landscape of varied perspectives, trustworthy information and the ethical practices that NPPA promotes is necessary and vital for our democracy.
- The Board of Directors of the National Press Photographers Association
Statement from Society of Professional Journalists
Sinclair Responds to Criticism
Sinclair Chairman Claims Entire Print Media Has "No Credibility"
Sinclair Employees Say Their Contracts Make It Too Expensive to Quit
Deadspin Video Illustrates Sinclair Stations' Messaging
UPDATE: After being informed of NPPA’s statement, Sinclair’s Senior Vice President for News Scott Livingston, who is a three-time regional Photographer of the Year, reached out to NPPA President Michael P. King and provided the following statement:
“There’s nothing alarming about the message. The message reinforces our commitment to objective and fair storytelling, and I don’t like the fact that our people are being attacked unfairly. This was based on research. This was designed as a news promo: a message of integrity and accuracy. It’s about having our viewers help keep us honest. We do commentary, but we don’t have anchors do commentary. The script reinforces what we stand for – we stand for objective, fair reporting. Local news is at the heart of Sinclair. We have one agenda: to serve our local communities. There’s a real commitment on a national level to quality storytelling.”