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U of I dean among university leaders condemning Sinclair

Sinclair Broadcast Group headquarters in Hunt Valley, Md. | Getty Images

The interim dean of the University of Illinois College of Media was among 13 journalism school leaders to sign a letter condemning Sinclair Broadcast Group requiring stations to read a script about fake news.

Interim Dean Wojtek J. Chodzko-Zajko was among those who attached their names to a letter addressed to Sinclair Executive Chairman David. D. Smith, according to the Poynter Institute’s Al Tompkins.

In part, the letter stated: “While news organizations have historically had and used the prerogative to publish and broadcast editorials clearly identified as opinion, we believe that line was crossed at Sinclair stations.”

Sinclair is trying to buy Tribune Media’s 42 local TV stations, including WGN-TV, in a $3.9 billion deal. The deal was announced in May 2017 but still needs approval from the Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission.

A Deadspin video depicts dozens of Sinclair TV news anchors reciting the same scripted message warning against “fake stories.”

The video put in stark visual terms what for weeks had largely been an academic debate about media consolidation and Sinclair’s efforts to promote a consistent message across its stations.

And Chicago media columnist Robert Feder reported that on-air WGN-TV journalists met with union representatives last week, apparently concerned about Sinclair’s possible takeover of the station.