De-Central-ized Programming | Vox Pop | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

De-Central-ized Programming

A Pyrrhic victory for Pittsburgh news junkies

Take heart, progressives and all others not hypnotized by Faux News and the other conservative talking-point spin machines. We actually won a minor victory right here in the 'Burgh!

The bad news is that about three dozen staffers at WPGH Fox 53 were shit-canned last week. That means nice, capable people like Alby Oxenreiter and Sheila Hyland will be out on the street, offering to read aloud for food (something I began doing after I was given the old heave-ho by WPXI). But the flip side is that the evil right-wing "News Central" portion of the broadcast by notoriously conservative Sinclair Broadcasting is as dead as Rick Santorum's re-election chances, at least here in Western PA.

Even though WPGH bills itself as "Fox 53," it is not owned by Fox. It is owned by Baltimore-based Sinclair Broadcasting. Initially, WPGH ran its own local news, staffed by local reporters. Then Sinclair's "News Central" began to take over half the broadcast, alternating between the 'Burgh reporters and the News Central news and weather anchors, as well as a special feature: Mark Hyman, its idiotic nightly commentator.

Masquerading as a "fair and balanced" news outlet while in reality a thinly disguised conservative talking-point machine is a task for the scum of the earth, and the scum at Fox News on cable has risen (or were they moving in the opposite direction?) to the task quite nicely.

The only sin bigger than lying through your teeth about objectivity, though, is being boring and/or inept at it. And the pinheads at News Central were that and less., which offers daily analysis and news about the television industry, describes Sinclair as having a "fiercely right-wing approach that makes Fox News look like a model of objectivity.", a Madison, Wisc., Web site, points out another journalistic sin by Sinclair: The revolting Hyman is supremely unqualified. "Hyman isn't the station manager, a local crank, or even a journalist," Alternet argues. "He is the Vice President of Corporate Communications for the station's owner, the Sinclair Broadcast Group." In other words, he's a crackerjack flack.

A flack, in journalistic parlance, is one paid to parrot a point of view with absolutely no responsibility to search for the truth, as long as it reflects positively on the party for whom the flacker is flacking.

Hyman was flacking his wacker, or yapping his yapper, each and every night on the News Central portion of Fox 53 news. Alternet's correspondent sums up the daily substance of Hyman's flackery: "Mark Hyman rants against peace activists ('wack-jobs'), the French ('cheese-eating surrender monkeys'), progressives ('loony left') and the so-called liberal media, usually referred to as the 'hate-America crowd' or the 'Axis of Drivel.' Colorful, if creatively anemic, this is TV's version of talk radio, with the precisely tanned Hyman playing a second-string Limbaugh."

More like fifth string. The problem with amateur right-wing spinmeisters is that all they do is parrot the pros, and it is transparently unoriginal. Right-wing radio is big in this town, and Fox News on cable is popular everywhere, but the dildos on News Central were just too worthless to attract yinzer nut jobs in large numbers.

FTV, a TV news industry Web site run by former Pittsburgh TV producer Scott Jones, notes that ratings have plummeted just about everywhere that News Central has shared the stage with various local news teams, especially in Pittsburgh. The numbers were significantly better when it was just Sheila, Alby and the rest of the local gang.

It has to be frustrating for the locals to know that they were doing just fine until the pinhead patrol arrived -- and that thanks to Sinclair's incompetent meddling with a winning formula, they're all out on the street. Adding insult to injury, a newsroom source says Sinclair has offered a severance package, but will cut it in half if those receiving the severance are hired by WPXI, who will now produce WPGH's 10 p.m. news. If that's true, Sinclair has no shame, no class -- and no local news department, which has traditionally been the identity and the brand of any respectable local affiliate.

Since progressives lose most of the elections, we have to savor the little things.

It sucks for WPGH's news staff, but at least we 'Burghers busted the Hyman.

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