The Mainstream Media (MSM) is largely taking it on the chin for their coverage of the first day of the Donald Trump impeachment inquiry.
They earned the ridicule, from my perspective. Here are two quick examples.
First, NBC News and Reuters both complained about a lack of pizzazz in the hearings. They were rightly taken to the woodshed by thoughtful commentators and by late night comics (who, come to think of it, are now among our most reliable branch of thoughtful commentators.) That “If it doesn’t involve sex or drugs, it is dull” type of coverage isn’t just lazy, it is irresponsible journalism, and the MSM should be better than this. As is often the case, Alexandra Petri in the Washington Post had one of the best satirical responses to this nonsense in her, “Hey, I got your first draft of the Impeachment Hearings. Here’s what it needs!”
My thought was, who died and left Eric Trump—with his “horribly boring” and “Snoozefest” tweet—to set the ground rules for how to cover the impeachment inquiry of his father?
Second, comparing this inquiry and the times to Watergate is also lazy and worse, it sets up a narrative that’s bound to fail. Peter Baker wrote in the New York Times that the country wasn’t “riveted” by the testimony on Day 1 of the Trump inquiry, as he suggests it was during the Watergate hearings. Well, I’m a bit older than Peter Baker and was in college in 1974 during the summer of the hearings. If Wikipedia can be believed, Peter Baker was seven years old at the time. I recall a country 45 years ago that had three major television networks, not 500 cable channels and countless internet, social media, and blog sites to choose from. FOX News and the right-wing infotainment network didn’t exist. As Joan Walsh writes in The Nation, we’re not riveted by anything anymore—except maybe the Super Bowl, and some of us haven’t watched that in years.
The two Senators who led the Watergate hearings—Sam Ervin and Howard Baker (my senator at the time)—were not anyone’s idea of riveting television. What they were, even with all their faults, were Members of Congress who cared more about the future of their country than they cared for their next race for office or their jump to a lucrative K Street lobbying job or a spot on cable news. They took their responsibilities seriously and they worked hard, through a lot of dull hearings and background work, to get to the truth.
As Walsh writes in her compelling take on the subject, we fetishize Watergate today because we know how it ended. Nixon resigned. She notes that many of us are craving “some type of playbook” and some obvious force of “moral authority” when, in fact, we have neither. “We have to create it.” I would add that just because we create a story that sounds insightful doesn’t mean that the story is necessarily true. If you are going to cite something like Watergate, at least understand the full context and history, and then try and understand how the times today are different.
Jennifer Weiner ends her commentary in the Times excoriating news outlets looking for pizzazz with the following:
“Here’s a thought: The next time we see a partisan or a politician or, worse, a reporter complain that the hearings are boring, we push back. We point out that our political process is one thing and professional wrestling is another, and shame on anyone who faults the first for not resembling the second. We remind people that just because something is shown on TV, that does not mean it’s a TV show.
Because, if we keep insisting that impeachment has to entertain us, we’re going to channel-surf our way right out of our democracy.”
Consider this a small part of my push back.
More to come…