Let's try this on for size and see how it fits:
"Hi, I'm Mike McInally. Our greatest responsibility is to serve our mid-valley communities. We are extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that we produce.
"But we're concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country. The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media.
"More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories — stories that just aren't true, without checking facts first.
"Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control 'exactly what people think.' This is extremely dangerous to a democracy.
"At the Mid-Valley Media Group, it's our responsibility to pursue and report the truth. We understand truth is neither politically 'left nor right.' Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.
"But we are human and sometimes our reporting might fall short. If you believe our coverage is unfair please reach out by emailing me at email@example.com and sending me your CONTENT CONCERNS. We value your comments. We we will respond back to you.
"We work very hard to seek the truth and strive to be fair, balanced and factual. We consider it our honor, our privilege to responsibly deliver the news every day.
"Thank you for reading and we appreciate your feedback."
With a very few tweaks, that's the complete script that Sinclair Broadcast Group, the country's largest broadcaster, had its anchors read at each of its stations. A video, compiled by Timothy Burke, the video director at the sports website Deadspin, edited together dozens of the spots into an extremely creepy two minutes.
Among Sinclair's 193 stations are two that serve the mid-valley, Portland's KATU and Eugene's KVAL. Two anchors at KVAL said they were uncomfortable with the script and declined to read it, the Register-Guard reported, but others at the station complied.
The Deadspin video struck a nerve, in part because it broke at the same time that Sinclair is seeking a $3.9 billion deal to buy Tribune Media, a deal that has triggered antitrust concerns. If the deal goes through, Sinclair stations would be able to reach 7 out of 10 Americans. And there's nothing that highlights the power of that potential reach than watching dozens of anchors in dozens of markets say the exact same words, over and over. You can start to see how this could turn out to be "extremely dangerous to our democracy."
Sinclair already is under scrutiny for its "must-runs" — video segments that local stations are required to run. These segments include content such as terrorism news updates and conservative-leaning commentary. (John Oliver's "Last Week Tonight" show on HBO examined Sinclair in a segment last year. A link to that segment is included with the online version of the column, but be forewarned: It includes profanity.)
And yet: If the Sinclair script had been read by one anchor at one station and had been labeled "commentary," it might have raised an eyebrow or two in its local market, but it wouldn't have seemed completely out of place. Of course, we work hard to produce factual, balanced reporting. Of course, we're worried about the sharing of false news stories. Of course, we want to hear from you when you think we fall short.
But it's a shame that Sinclair executives didn't trust their own news employees enough to address these important issues in their own words. That says something about what Sinclair really thinks about journalists and journalism.
While we're talking about corporations and news, it's only fair to note that this newspaper is owned by Lee Enterprises, a publicly owned corporation based in Davenport, Iowa. Lee owns 49 daily newspapers, mostly in the Midwest. I've worked for a Lee newspaper my entire career. In that time, the company never has required me to run a certain news story or to take a particular position in an editorial.
In the last year, the company has opened a national news desk in Madison, Wisconsin, which works with Associated Press reports to package our daily page of national and world news; this arrangement has worked out reasonably well.
Like any other company, Lee is interested in making a profit. This emphasis at times has forced managers at its newspapers to make painful budget decisions.
Even so, we continue to believe that the work we do to produce balanced and factual news is essential to the communities we serve. And, to repeat one of the Sinclair points, you should let me know when you think we fall short.