Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Do you live in a Sinclair media market? (Check here to find out.)

If so, watch tonight's evening newscast and write down a list of the advertisers (especially the local ones) who have commercials running during the broadcast.

Write up a list, as brief, clear and concise as possible, including the names of the advertisers and the time and date of the program you watched them on. Of course, include the name of the affiliate and the city too. Then send them in to us. Make the Subject heading "ADVERTS."

In the last few hours many readers have written in to say that they've called various Sinclair affiliates either to be referred to Sinclair corporate headquarters, shunted into voicemail, or hung up on.

Some affiliates have refused to identify the given station's sales manager.

Now, this site might be of help for identifying who's who at various stations. But let's be very clear: contacting a given affiliate's sales manager and telling them of your displeasure is very much of secondary importance.

Local Sinclair reps are suggesting that callers call their corporate HQ. But, believe me, don't waste your time.

The key is to identify their local advertisers and contact them. You can find information out here or, if you're in a Sinclair market, just watch the evening news show and mark down who the advertisers are. Then contact them directly -- and if possible, place a call. Or better yet, send an old-fashioned paper letter. Actually, scratch that, do both.

For good measure, it's great to tell the sales manager what you're doing. But if your message to the advertiser is successful they'll be taking the matter up with the sales manager directly. And he or she will definitely be taking their call.

A reader from <$NoAd$>the WSTR media market sends in the following ...

Just talked to Eric Lazar, sales manager at WSTR, who said he'd heard from only one or two other people regarding Sinclair's decision to broadcast the program. He was very courteous, but suggested I contact the corporate office before I began calling advertisers culled from tonight's 10 p.m. news broadcast. He suggested I start with William Butler, vice president of programming and promotions.

I just put in a second call to Lazar. The reader is correct: Lazar was quite courteous. I asked if he would confirm that LaRosa's and King's Automall were WSTR advertisers. He politely declined to discuss who their advertisers are and referred me on to corporate headquarters. But with respect to Mr. Lazar, calling corporate headquarters is exactly what Sinclair would like you to do. And calling their local advertisers -- where most of their revenue comes from -- is the last thing they want you doing.

A brief follow-up on contacting advertisers. I'm already getting reports from the field that many Sinclair advertisers are starting to communicate their concern to Sinclair. If you don't live anywhere near a Sinclair station then by all means make your concerns known to their national advertisers. But from knowledgable folks I talk to, I get the strong impression that the real point of vulnerability are the local advertisers. So if you live in or really anywhere near a Sinclair market that's definitely where to focus.

Just a note on how this can work.

The Sinclair boycott website lists two advertisers on WSTR, the Sinclair station in Cincinnati, Ohio. I know some folks haven't been able to access the site, but the two listed are King's Automall and LaRosa's, a pizzeria chain.

I called WSTR and the sales manager wasn't available. The woman I spoke to could not confirm that King's Automall and LaRosa's were advertising at this moment. But she did say that they were regular advertisers on the station.

I then called LaRosa's and King's Automall to ask if they were indeed presently advertising on WSTR. In both cases I was told the person in question was at lunch. So I wasn't able to get confirmation from the advertisers.

But you can see how this is done. As the reader earlier today noted, the key is to talk to the sales manager. Tell that person of your concerns and that you'll be contacting the advertisers individually to do the same.

Specificity is key.

And one other point about tactics and decency, which overlap in this case. Please don't be rude or hostile. Be firm. Make clear that you're serious. And make your feelings known. But remember that the advertiser in question probably didn't know anything about this until today or maybe yesterday. And the person you'll actually be talking to at the station, and even more so with the advertiser, is as likely as not to be a Kerry supporter. What Sinclair is doing is egregious. But if you start making calls you'll be talking to a lot of folks who don't even know what's going on with all this and certainly aren't directly responsible for it.

Finally, and again, there are good instructions for how to approach this in the reader letter posted here this morning. And here's the list of Sinclair's local stations.

A reader gets results<$NoAd$> ...

As suggested in a post you have further down, I just called the Cincinatti station's sales mgr. He was really concerned when I read him a list of local adverstisers and said I'd be calling their advertising managers to express my displeasure that they choose to advertise on a Sinclair station. He practically begged me not to, saying "this involves people's livelihoods." And then I did call the local advertisers.

So you are correct. Local stations -- SALES MANAGERS and local advertisers AD MANAGERS are the pressure point.

Please do what you can to get the word out.

You heard the guy ...

The verbatim quote from Sinclair's Mark <$NoAd$>Hyman, from this morning on CNN ...

However, the accusations coming from Terry McAuliffe and others, is it because they are some elements of this that may reflect poorly on John Kerry? That it's somehow an in-kind contribution of George Bush?

If you use that logic and reasoning, that means every car bomb in Iraq would be an in-kind contribution to John Kerry. Weak job performance ratings that came out last month would have been an in- kind contribution to John Kerry. And that's just nonsense.

This is news. I can't change the fact that these people decided to come forward today. The networks had this opportunity over a month ago to speak with these people. They chose to suppress them. They chose to ignore them. They are acting like Holocaust deniers, pretending these men don't exist.

Reporting unemployment statistics is the same as running free commercials from rabid partisans. See where we're going with this?

Pigs ...

From Reed Hundt, Former Chair, FC<$NoAd$>C ...

Dear Josh:

Why is it important that Sinclair Broadcasting be urged in all lawful ways that can be imagined to reconsider its decision to broadcast on its television stations the anti-Kerry "documentary"? Because in a large, pluralistic information society democracy will not work unless electronic media distribute reasonably accurate information and also competing opinions about political candidates to the entire population. Certainly, for the overwhelming number of voters this year, controlling impressions of the candidates for President are obtained from television. In all countries, candidates for public office governments aspire to have favorable information and a chorus of favorable opinion disseminated through mass media to the citizenry. In a democracy, on the eve of a quadrennial election, the incumbent government plainly has a motive to encourage the media to report positively on its record but also negatively on the rival. But its role instead is to make sure that broadcast television promote democracy by conveying reasonably accurate reflections of where the candidates stand and what they are like. To that end, since television was invented, Congress and its delegated agency, the Federal Communications Commision, together have passed laws and regulations to ensure that broadcast television stations provide reasonably accurate, balanced, and fair coverage of major Presidential and Congressional candidates. These obligations are reflected in specific provisions relating to rights to buy advertising time, bans against the gift of advertising time, rights to reply to opponents, and various other specific means of accomplishing the goal of balance and fairness. The various rules are part of a tradition well known to broadcasters an honored by almost all of them. This tradition is embodied in the commitment of the broadcasters to show the conventions and the debates. Part of this tradition is that broadcasters do not show propaganda for any candidate, no matter how much a station owner may personally favor one or dislike the other. Broadcasters understand that they have a special and conditional role in public discourse. They received their licenses from the public -- licenses to use airwaves that, for instance, cellular companies bought in auctions -- for free, and one condition is the obligation to help us hold a fair and free election. The Supreme Court has routinely upheld this "public interest" obligation. Virtually all broadcasters understand and honor it. Sinclair has a different idea, and a wrong one in my view. If Sinclair wants to disseminate propaganda, it should buy a printing press, or create a web site. These other media have no conditions on their publication of points of view. This is the law, and it should be honored. In fact, if the FCC had any sense of its responsibility as a steward of fair elections its chairman now would express exactly what I am writing to you here.

-- Reed Hundt

Speaks for itself ...

From a reader ..<$NoAd$>.

I’ve worked in the media business for 30 years and I guarantee you that sales is what these local TV stations are all about. They don’t care about license renewal or overwhelming public outrage. They care about sales only, so only local advertisers can affect their decisions.

Here's how to have an impact on the local Sinclair stations: first, watch the station and make a list of all of the local advertisers. Then, write to the sales manager -- not the general manager, but the sales manager -- and tell him that you're going to contact all of the local advertisers to register a protest about the station airing this program. Be specific -- mention the names of those local advertisers. Then, actually contact them (if you write or email, cc the sales manager). These stations make most of their income (around 60%) from local advertisers and will NOT want to have that income threatened.

This has worked numerous times. A recent example was when a local radio morning show host in North Carolina told his listeners to aim for bicyclists on the road (he was ranting about how cyclists have no right to share the roadways). The station defended him for several days amidst public outcry, until the advertisers, under pressure from outraged cyclists, began to make noise. Suddenly, the station reversed itself, suspended the host for several days, and made him do public service announcements for weeks about sharing the road with cyclists.

This can work! I plan to start tonight!
Sounds right to me.