Sinclair Stations Get Memo on How to Cover Protests

An internel memo was sent to the staff at Sinclair stations, telling them how they should cover the protests. 

The memo came fro Bill Anderson, Director of News and Content for Sinclair. For the most part, Anderson's advice is solid and it is advice that all Reporters should follow. 

Here is the memo, obtained by FTVLive:

From: William J. Anderson
Sent: Thursday, November 10, 2016 10:22 AM
Subject: Protest Coverage (in your markets)
BCC: News Directors
Topic: Covering Protests: Adding Context and Perspective.
Some points to consider if anti-Trump protests occur in your market:
1) Questioning the Protestors: We certainly have to convey the protestors’ positions. That’s a key part of any protest story. But we have to do more. We should ask protestors relevant questions which add context and perspective for viewer. For example:

a. Ask protestors about their own political involvement: Did they vote? If yes, for whom? If not, why not?

b. Did they hear Trump’s victory speech about unity? Did they hear President Obama and Clinton’s speeches about unity? What do they think about those calls for unity?

c. Do they accept the notion of “peaceful transition of government” which were lynchpins of Obama and Clinton’s speeches yesterday. If not, why not?

i. We should never be antagonistic in our line of questioning, but this is part of context and perspective reporting. Viewers can’t/won’t understand the mindset of the protests if we don’t ask follow-up questions.

2) Reach out to City and Civic leaders for comment: This is a fundamental part of our job. We should ask, what part of the protest do they support (if any)--- and what do they reject (if any)? And why?

3) Mapping the Protest: All protest stories in your markets should come with a map which shows your viewers where they are occurring and what intersections are being blocked. (if any).  Many of your viewers likely don’t know where these intersections/streets are. Don’t presume that viewers know which streets may be closed. Show them maps.

4)      Language:

a. We have labeled most of these protests as “peaceful”. But there are really multiple types of protests and you should consider modifying the language accordingly if protests fall into other gray-area categories: (these are not absolute rules, but consider building more specific types of descriptors in your newsrooms, for example)

i. Peaceful protest (i.e., standing on street corner, speaking, singing, chanting, holding signs etc…or marching in a street with a permit. No threats of violence.)

 ii. Disruptive (and/or unlawful) protest (i.e., crowds walking through the middle of a street without a permit, closing streets down with a permit, blocking cars/intersections without a permit. Using megaphones at midnight….without a permit. (i.e., any protests which unlawfully disrupt other citizens.)  

 iii. Violent protest (i.e., committing acts of violence against people or destroying private or government property).

(Note, you have to use your best judgment all of these in these cases. Most protests don’t fit into one simple category—but we have to provide more detail.)  

The goal here is to add context and perspective. If we don’t offer that, we are not providing value to the consumer and we are not giving people a reason to watch us.
William J. Anderson
Director of News Content and Operations
Sinclair Broadcast Group, INC