February 28, 2012 | by Kevin Naff
UPDATE: Fox station says it’s not endorsing Md. marriage referendum

On Friday, I posted a story about the Fox affiliate station in Baltimore, WBFF-45, linking prominently on its homepage to the website that is gathering signatures for a petition to force Maryland’s new marriage law to the ballot in November.

It was a clear endorsement of the effort to repeal the law. An employee at WBFF who declined to give her name told me that the link was posted by “corporate.”

Today I spoke to Scott Livingston, news director at WBFF, who says the link came from local station staff and was not a corporate directive.

“Corporate had nothing to do with this,” Livingston said. “This is a local story we’ve been covering thoroughly and aggressively for two years.”

He said the link was intended to provide further information on the marriage issue for interested viewers.

“We are not endorsing any element of this debate,” Livingston said. “We see it as a political process. Our goal is letting viewers understand they have a voice in the debate.” He added that the site has now been “modified.”

Indeed, the link that previously sent readers directly to the petition site now goes to a new page within the WBFF site that also includes a link to Equality Maryland’s website. The new text reads:

“Opponents of the new law legalizing same-sex marriage are preparing to begin a petition drive to put the measure on the November ballot.  Click here for more information on the petition.

“Equality Maryland is heralding the passage of the same-sex marriage bill.  Click here to go to Equality Maryland’s website.”

Livingston said he’s not aware of any LGBT employees of WBFF objecting to the link and that the station received a “handful” of complaints after my Friday post on the subject. He said multiple gay-related organizations and bloggers contacted him but he declined to identify any by name.

“We’ve heard from organizations, newspapers and blogs that represent the gay community … they had questions based on the Blade report … but there was no directive from corporate.”

WBFF is owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, which has a long and well-documented record of conservative bias. Livingston seems like a reasonable, fair person; here’s hoping WBFF’s future coverage of the marriage issue will be more balanced.

 

 

 

Kevin Naff is the editor and a co-owner of the Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest and most acclaimed LGBT news publication, founded in 1969.

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