Impeachment, and how to cover it; plus Vox buys New York Media and Showtime snags ‘Vice’

September 25, 2019
Category: Newsletters

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This is either a historic moment in our country, or just another day in the presidency of Donald Trump. It all settles around one thing:

Impeachment.

It’s the word of the day. And it likely will be the word of the day for many days to come. We all know — sort of, kind of — what it means. But do we really know how it works? What’s all involved? The details of what goes into impeachment?

PolitiFact’s Louis Jacobson and John Kruzel have it covered with an easy-to-read guide on how an impeachment against President Donald Trump would work. The New York Times also has an effective chart.

With that in mind, here’s today’s media news, starting with our word of the day.

The new national news focus for … a while

What happens now?

We all want answers, and we want them now.

When? How soon? Most of all, how’s this going to end?

This story will be a slow burn. The impeachment process, even if it gets past the inquiry part, is a long one.

For example, when President Bill Clinton was impeached, the whole thing took 127 days. The House voted to impeach on Oct. 8, 1998, and the Senate acquitted him on Feb. 12, 1999. The House approved impeachment for President Richard Nixon on Feb. 6, 1974, and he resigned on Aug. 9, 1974.

In other words, settle in, because this story is going to take time to play out.

Even if the House votes to impeach, we might not get to a resolution before the end of the year. But the news will not stop in the meantime. The primetime pundits on Fox News and MSNBC, as well as the guests on CNN, will continue to spin, pivot and opine. For example, Tuesday night’s coverage on Fox News bordered on the absurd with Rudy Giuliani’s appearance on Laura Ingraham’s show, which included Giuliani telling another guest to “shut up” before calling him a “moron.” The Sunday morning show will be dominated with predictions and, depending on the political leanings, wishful thinking.

Media outlets will jostle for scoops. Networks will fight for guests and ratings. The coverage figures to be overwhelming. Media consumers will be tested as they can only hope outlets cover the story responsibly and thoroughly without causing fatigue — although that seems unlikely.

Here’s an excellent suggestion from Melanie Sill, the former top editor at the Sacramento Bee and the Raleigh (North Carolina) News & Observer who tweeted:

“A plea for journalism that focuses most of its energy not on predicting how impeachment inquiry will turn out, but instead on explaining what this means and engaging Americans in questions they should consider as events unfold in evaluating their elected leaders’ actions.”

This appears to be only the beginning of one of the biggest news stories of our lives. Here’s hoping media outlets follow Sill’s plea and act like journalists, not soothsayers.

Moving with caution?


President Donald Trump addresses reporters as he arrives with first lady Melania Trump at U.N. headquarters Tuesday. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

What’s especially noteworthy about the impeachment proceedings against Trump is just how agonizing this decision has been and how cautiously some are moving. Even many who detest Trump and everything he stands for aren’t convinced the impeachment is a wise idea. It would appear as if Speaker Nancy Pelosi was one of the last holdouts against impeachment.

Perhaps the reason Democrats have, up until now, been so unsure about impeachment is because they aren’t sure they would be successful. This is best explained in a thoughtful analysis by FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver.

Silver writes, “But Democrats had better hope that something else is different this time too: public opinion. Despite Trump being quite unpopular, and despite the public largely buying Democrats’ interpretation of the fact pattern on Russia — most polls find that a majority of the public thinks that Trump sought to obstruct the investigation into Russia, for instance — impeachment was a soundly unpopular proposition.”

Based on poll numbers and the unpopularity of impeachment in the Russian investigation, Silver said that that should, at least, give “the Democrats pause.”

Silver writes, “Heretofore, quite a lot of voters have both disapproved of Trump’s conduct and disapproved of impeaching him.”

But even Silver admits that isn’t clear why some voters disapprove of Trump and disapprove of impeaching him.

Andrea Mitchell honored


Andrea Mitchell attends the 2019 White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in April. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell received a Lifetime Achievement Emmy Tuesday night. In her remarks, Mitchell thanked her NBC colleagues, as well as female broadcast pioneers such as Lesley Stahl, Judy Woodruff and the late Cokie Roberts.

Then she described journalism in the age of Trump.

“We are now in an entirely new environment,” Mitchell said. “In my experience during more than four decades covering the White House, Congress and national security in seven administrations, politics was invariably adversarial. But this is different. Now we are called ‘the enemy of the people.’ Our credibility as journalists is deliberately targeted as part of re-election strategy. Today, time-honored norms are ignored. Press secretaries and senior officials deliver ‘alternative facts.’ Traditions, such as White House briefings, state department expanded travel pools, and formal news conferences are replaced by shouted exchanges on the South Lawn, often drowned out by the whirling rotor blades of Marine One.”

If you’re looking for New York, it’s at Vox

New York Magazine has a new owner. In an all-stock deal announced Tuesday night, Vox Media acquired New York Media. The value of the deal was not disclosed.

Here’s how The New York Times described it: “They are bringing together a much-decorated print magazine, websites, a podcast empire and several streaming television deals — the very model, they hope, of a modern media company.”

Pamela Wasserstein, chief executive of New York Media, was quoted in The Times as saying, “No one had to do this. It’s a brilliant, in our view, opportunity, so that’s why we leaned into it. It’s not out of need. It’s out of ambition.”

According to The Times, New York Media — which houses the websites The Cut (style, culture), Grub Street (food), Intelligencer (politics), The Strategist (shopping) and Vulture (pop culture) — was losing as much as $10 million a year before a “recent upturn.”

Jim Bankoff, Vox Media’s chief executive and chairman, told The Times there would be no layoffs as a result of the merger. “Nothing changes editorially for any of our brands,” he said.

Showtime picks up ‘Vice’


A scene from last season’s “Vice.” (Photo courtesy of Vice News.)

Vice’s weekly newsmagazine show has found a new home. Showtime announced it has ordered 13 episodes of “Vice,” which will start airing next spring. “Vice” lands at Showtime after HBO cancelled the show following a six-year run that ended in December.

Vinnie Malhotra, executive vice president of nonfiction programming for Showtime said, “As so much of television news has moved in a direction of partisan coverage and talking heads, the team behind ‘Vice’ continues to delve deep into the global issues, conflicts and newsmakers affecting our everyday lives. They also do it with an incredibly diverse cadre of journalists – both in front of and behind the camera.”

The Hollywood Reporter’s Natalie Jarvey writes that “Vice” will be produced by Vice News. In addition, Vice News is working on the return of its daily show — “Vice News Tonight” — for Viceland, as well as a possible news show for Hulu.

‘Meet the Press’ tops the ratings

NBC’s “Meet the Press” was the most-watched Sunday morning TV show for the 2018-19 season, according to the Nielsen ratings. The show had an average viewership of 3.285 million viewers, besting ABC’s “This Week” by 467,000 viewers and CBS’s “Face The Nation” by 213,000.

NBC also is bragging about wins in key demographics for the “NBC Nightly News” and the “Today” show.

King for a day

Here’s a late-breaking story from Tuesday night. The Des Moines Register wrote a profile about Carson King, a 24-year-old Iowan who held up a sign during ESPN’s “College GameDay” asking for beer money. He received hundreds of dollars, so he turned it into a good cause and has since raised more than a million for a children’s hospital.

During the reporting of the profile, the Register found two racist tweets King had written when he was 16. King was asked about the tweets, he expressed regret and held a news conference apologizing for them before the Register story was published. He also tweeted about it.

Register Executive Editor Carol Hunter wrote a column late Tuesday explaining the decision to include the information about the tweets in the profile. But, she wrote, the decision was made to put the information near the bottom of the story.

Hunter wrote, “Reasonable people can look at the same set of facts and disagree on what merits publication. But rest assured such decisions are not made lightly and are rooted in what we perceive as the public good.”

Hunter’s column seems to be in response to backlash the Register is getting for publishing the info about the tweets.

I’ll have more on this in Thursday’s Poynter Report.

Hot type

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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