A Dark Tale from TV Land

"Most people would probably agree that TV news anchors and reporters should have a strong determination to search for and report the truth no matter what the economic consequences to their station or network might be," writes former TV meteorologist Chris Shumway. "I bet they would also agree that it is a journalist's duty to expose and challenge bias or censorship within the news media. But most people don't know that in many TV newsrooms journalists are routinely discouraged and even contractually forbidden from performing these essential duties." Shumway learned this the hard way, when he was fired from his job with Columbus, Ohio station WBNS-TV for talking publicly about the station's sweetheart deal with a local advertiser, a bank that "became not only sponsor of a WBNS 'news' segment, they also got to supply the 'expert' commentator (a bank official) and write the script! Each day the bank would select a topic and fax the newsroom a set of questions for the anchors to ask the 'expert' during the segment. Many of the questions referred directly to products and services sold by the bank, or addressed major policy issues that directly affect the banking industry (interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve Board). During the time I observed this practice and reviewed the faxes (approximately 3 months), the anchors didn't deviate from the bank's script. This was a clear case of an advertiser buying control of the news, or rather, a TV station selling control of the news outright."