Sinclair debuted an original program on their newest crown jewel NewsChannel8 Tuesday night. A townhall on the situation in Ferguson, Missouri was the topic of conversation and panelists included Roland Martin, a former cop, the president of NAACP's Baltimore chapter and Sinclair personality and business associate Armstrong Williams. The special aired on more than 100 Sinclair stations, mostly on diginets to avoid interrupting syndicated programming, and it was heavily promoted on Twitter under the hashtag "#YourVoiceYourVote" on the Twitter accounts of various anchors and Sinclair affiliates.
The townhall was produced and filmed live from WBFF-TV's studios in Baltimore and used the same graphics package which is seen during WBFF's 10 p.m. newscast. Jeff Barnd, lead anchor at WBFF-TV, also read social media questions from Twitter during the show. The in-studio audience was very small and predominantly African-American. It would've been nice to have seen a more diverse audience with diverse opinions.
I also found it kind of weird how the show's introduction only mentions that Michael Brown was shot and killed. It didn't mention that he was shot and killed by a cop which I would think is a very important distinction to make when discussing this story. Also interesting to see a lot of CNN file footage used during the introduction which leads me to wonder if Sinclair affiliates will have to sever their future relationship with CNN because of Sinclair's eagerness to compete on cable news soon.
Overall though, the town hall panelists did a great job of representing each side of the Ferguson debate which has everyone talking to this day. Mark Hyman, the moderator, seemed to shape questions in his own viewpoint at times (although he made an effort to say that he wasn't giving his opinion multiple times) and I was afraid he would show outright bias given that he hosts a conservative opinion show on Sinclair affiliates during the weekend. Surprisingly though, he was very fair and let dialogue flow naturally. I'm sure we'll see a lot more of Hyman as NewsChannel8 re-launches.
Roland Martin also credited Armstrong Williams for inviting him to the debate. Williams owns a couple of television stations through Sinclair and has a syndicated talk show of his own through the company. I'm sure we'll see him involved in some capacity of the relaunched NewsChannel8 soon as well. Maybe he even convinces Martin to come along for the ride?
RECOMMENDATIONS: I recommend a bigger studio, a more diversified audience and more distinctive graphics during the next townhall.
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