“On local news stations across the United States last month, dozens of anchors gave the same speech to their combined millions of viewers. It included a warning about fake news, a promise to report fairly and accurately and a request that viewers go to the station’s website and comment ‘if you believe our coverage is unfair.’” — New York Times, April 2, 2018
Hi, I’m (A) ____________, and I’m (B) _____________.
(A): Lately, America has seen a lot of fake news.
(B): Here at [local station name], you’re not going to get any of that malarkey.
(A): That’s because we are two serious anchors who have independently resolved to fight that problem, and now we’re going to extemporaneously tell you our reasons for those feelings.
(B): Our greatest responsibility is to not lose our jobs. We are extremely proud of our ability to read whatever is put in front of us.
(A): I don’t want to starve. I want to be able to live in my neighborhood and eat my favorite foods, like [any kind of beef] and [any kind of domestic cheese or a second kind of beef].
(B): You said it, (A). We’re concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible news anchors who refuse to read scripts as written. Some of them even share their so-called “concerns” about those scripts on social media to sow discord.
(A): These naïve men and women, whose mistakes are plaguing our country, seem not to understand that there are not many media jobs out there.
(B): Have you checked Indeed lately? It’s a wasteland.
(A): Also, Sinclair owns all the stations.
(B): I should have gone to business school.
(A): [Stare into the distance. Feel (but do not verbalize) regret and shame at being in this situation.]
(B): More alarming, some media outlets publish fake news stories about these concerns… stories that just aren’t true… without checking facts first with Sinclair’s management, who would tell them that there is nothing to worry about. After all, Sinclair owns 193 local television stations, so it’s safe to say they know what they’re talking about Wait, 193? That seems like a lot.
(A): Can that be right?
(B): Of course it’s right! You heard it here on [name of station], owned by Sinclair!
(A): Just behind the camera, my director is holding my paycheck centimeters from an open lighter. Please don’t burn my paycheck.
(B): I need money for my kids’ private school and my beagle’s organic dog food.
(A): This is a good script, and I am reading it with conviction.
(B): Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda, trying to control “exactly what people think” … This is extremely dangerous to a democracy.
(A): In a functional democracy, you read the words in front of you. Maybe I’m “old fashioned,” but that’s just how I was raised.
(B): It’s our responsibility to pursue and report the truth as it is revealed to us via the teleprompter. We understand “truth” is neither politically “left” nor “right,” nor “black and white,” nor “objective,” nor, strictly speaking, “existent.” “Truth” is a construct. What is real is hunger and fear.
(A): I am wearing a suit. My tone of voice is serious. I am looking right into the camera. I mean what I am saying.
(B): Our commitment to uncritical reading is the foundation of our continued employment, now more than ever.
(A): We work very hard to please our bosses and strive to pay our mortgages, remain comfortable, and rationalize our behavior as unavoidable. We consider it our honor and our privilege to credulously repeat the company line every day.
(B): Thank you for watching — and remember, Sinclair owns all the other stations, so don’t bother changing the channel.