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Local News, Fake News, No News Read All About It!

November 10, 2017
Kirkwood's Bill Freivogel is worried about fake news, loss of local news, and replacing news with opinion. Of course, being concerned about the news media is his job. He's publisher of the Gateway Journalism Review (GJR).

It's also his job as a professor of media law at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, where GJR is published. Of great concern is the destruction of rules limiting media monopoly and the loss of local news studio requirements.

A new FCC is intent on approving Sinclair Broadcasting Group's plan to buy Chicago-based Tribune Media Co. for $3.9 billion. In the St. Louis market, KDNL (Channel 30) is now owned by Sinclair. The purchase of Tribune would add KTVI (Channel 2) and KPLR (Channel 11) to its media stable.

On the national level, Sinclair's plan would provide it with 233 television stations that reach 72 percent of U.S. households. The FCC has had rules that allow a single company to reach no more than 39 percent of the nation's homes.

"The FCC's rules limiting ownership in local markets have always made sense, but they make even more sense today with hyper-partisan news media," said Freivogel. "The ownership rules are intended to make sure no one media company's voice becomes too loud in a particular city. Sinclair's right-wing voice in St. Louis already is loud with Sean Hannity wannabe Jamie Allman spouting nonsense. Giving Sinclair control of more St. Louis stations would potentially deepen the problem."

The issue of media monopoly in St. Louis and nationwide has long been a concern of Jessica Brown, founder of the Gateway Media Literacy Partners. She has taught media literacy at the college level for 14 years, including at Webster University. She said Sinclair's takeover will result in fewer jobs, fewer new voices and less diversity in the metro St. Louis television market.

"Media literacy is a survival skill now; a skill essential to the survival of democracy," said Brown. "People need to study and to act. People underestimate the power of one, and the power of constant communication with station managers, producers, reporters. Speak up about missing voices in stories; or misinformation in news broadcasts.

"We need to talk to our neighbors, groups we belong to, and our politicians about this," added Brown. "Demand that our media environment remain open to the public and that a local community's myriad voices be heard."

"Go Local" has been the mantra in the news biz in recent years. It's worked out pretty well for this newspaper, which focuses on community news.

So, why am I writing a column about moves by the FCC to make local news harder to find? That should only improve this newspaper's prospects. Perhaps I should be quoting late TV sage Roseanne Roseannadanna: "Never mind."

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