RE: Sinclair’s “Deal” With Campaigns

(See note at bottom for changes)

A significant portion of the Society of Professional JournalistsCode of Ethics focuses on what to do if errors are made in a story. The bottom line is that you own up to your mistakes and correct the record.

I published a post Saturday on this blog based off a Politico story, which alleged the Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcast Group struck a deal with Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election to air interviews with the candidate without added context in exchange for access. The report was repeated by other news organizations.

After hearing from Sinclair’s representatives and viewing emails between the company and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‘s campaign, I don’t believe the interview arrangements fell outside what would be considered ethical journalism. Therefore, I apologize to Sinclair for assuming the statements reported in Politico story, which was based off third-party reports, were accurate.

From what I can tell, the situation is a victim of a game of telephone. One person makes a statement, another person repeats that statement with some errors and it builds upon itself. Unfortunately, I made myself part of the chain by not reaching out to Sinclair for clarification. I’m sorry.

While my posts are commentary and I stand by my interpretation of the alleged situation as it applies to SPJ’s Code of Ethics, I should have not assumed the reported statements were correct.

I’ll be keeping the post up with a prominently displayed note linking to this post.

You can view an example of Sinclair’s interview with Trump here.


This post was updated on 12/19 to clarify that I believe the statements reported by Politico were incorrect – not that Politico incorrectly reported the statements.


Andrew M. Seaman is the chair of the Society of Professional Journalistsethics committee.

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  • Markkula JournEthics

    Sandra, thanks for such a great piece about Dori. I hope we can all pick up Dori’s challenge and as she put it, work toward giving all types of people a “front door to the news.” – Sally Lehrman

  • voscot

    In the interest of transparency, please provide the emails you reviewed in order to reach this conclusion. At the very least, please elaborate on the evidence you have seen that changed your mind. What exactly was the arrangement between Sinclair and the Trump campaign, and what evidence have you seen that the same arrangement was offered to the Clinton campaign?

  • AndrewMSeaman

    Says the person with an ambiguous name and no profile picture.

  • voscot

    I didn’t know I was required to identify myself in these comments. When I report a story, my name and face are shown. Also, I don’t obliquely refer to the main source of my reporting without quoting or better yet displaying it. With all due respect, your story would be a lot more credible if you supplemented it with the information I suggested. If you require my identity before you consider my suggestions, supply me your contact info. There’s a decent chance you know who I am. Also, one more hint: responding with snark isn’t going to improve your story either.

  • AndrewMSeaman

    My snark was directed at the fact that a person using no identifiable information is calling for transparency. I did not write a story. I wrote a commentary, which I then amended with this note. My contact information is available on

  • voscot

    I offer some concrete and constructive suggestions, you offer a smokescreen. I can’t help the fact that the only platform SPJ offers to comment on articles is Disqus, a platform used for many other sites where I prefer, for professional ethical reasons, to remain anonymous. Were it this blog alone, I would have no problem identifying myself, and I will try to find your contact information and reach out to you directly if that helps. But it’s not just me to whom you owe an explanation. Seems to me you committed multiple sins here. First, you published a commentary in which–as you admit–you didn’t research the facts. That, it appears, was unfair to Trump and Sinclair. Then you published a follow up in which you reference some purported emails you’ve seen and say you’ve changed your mind, but you offer no information about what changed your mind or what the actual arrangement between Trump and Sinclair was. Thus, we are no closer to the truth, and the original sin–if that’s what it was–lives on. I don’t care if it’s a story or a commentary (another smokescreen, by the way), you have a responsibility to be more careful with your facts–particularly on a blog that is supposed to be about journalism ethics.

  • AndrewMSeaman

    I didn’t offer a smokescreen. First, the emails are not mine to share. They also included the names and contacf details for employees and other people. Second, I shared emails in the past and it led to nothing but headaches. Third, I already admitted that I should not have repeated Politico’s report without additional information. So, you can spare me the lecture. Fourth, the blog also allows you to comment by signing in via Facebook and other accounts so you (who I assume is a journalist) don’t need to use your anonymous account used to comment on political stories and posts. Like I said, you may contact me if you like via email.

  • voscot

    First, check your email.
    Second, if the emails weren’t yours to share, you have an obligation to explain what pre-conditions YOU agreed to and why. Were they provided to you off the record? By a confidential source? Have you verified them? Were you not allowed to quote from them? Why did you grant your source such blanket anonymity? Also, what exactly led you to believe that the whole affair was a game of telephone? You can supply the information to readers if you want, or just ask us to take your word. But as it is, with the lack of foundation you offer, your commentary is just not all that credible. Also, kind of ironic that you ding me for an alleged lack of transparency while you protect the identities of sources who clearly have an agenda. My bet is that Sinclair put a whole lot of pressure on you, and you didn’t know how to deal with it except to fold. Go ahead. Prove me wrong.

  • voscot


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