The short commentaries are being scrapped, and investigative reports are being prioritized, the company confirmed to CNN Business on Wednesday.
This means that Boris Epshteyn, a former Trump aide, will no longer be showing up with pro-Trump talking points during evening newscasts from Baltimore to Seattle.
The “Bottom Line with Boris” segments were controversial both inside and outside the company, with some Sinclair journalists frustrated about the mandate to give up local news time for Fox-style right-wing opinion.
Sinclair later added a progressive commentator, Ameshia Cross, for balance.
Staffers began to be notified about the end of the commentary segments last week.
“We were told they want to do investigative reporting and focus on election coverage,” one source said.
Another source close to the company said the commentaries will end this Friday.
Epshteyn will remain with Sinclair in a sales role, the source added. It is unclear whether Cross will stay.
NBC first reported on the change on Wednesday. The network quoted from a memo to Sinclair staffers that said “we will be expanding our local investigative journalism footprint in our daily newscasts. We are excited to dedicate more time in our newscasts to report on critical and relevant issues.”
Sinclair’s conservative bent
There is reason to be skeptical about Sinclair’s commitment to investigations.
But “the mood and energy is really lifted today,” a longtime Sinclair staffer said after Wednesday’s announcement. “While there’s still some concerns over content being right-leaning, this is a step in the right direction.”
Sinclair’s political leanings have been well-documented. “Its executives have been consistent financial contributors to Republican candidates,” the Washington Post reported in 2014.
Media watchdogs have long accused management of infusing news coverage with a Republican bent, through topic selection, guest selection and other variables. Sinclair, in turn, accused its critics of bias.
Sinclair is first and foremost a profit-making organization, so the move away from commentaries is likely a ratings play – there was scant evidence that the right-wing or left-wing monologues were popular with viewers.