The media must meet the challenge of effectively covering the impeachment hearings

By | November 10, 2019

Margaret Sullivan writes:

The national media’s shortcomings have been all too obvious in recent years as Donald Trump has gleefully thrown the norms of traditional journalism into a tizzy.

They’ve trafficked in false equivalence. Allowed President Trump to play assignment editor. Gotten mired in pointless punditry.

Granted, it’s been a mixed record. Journalists have done a lot right — they have pointed out lies, dug out what’s really happening, skillfully explained and analyzed.

But on Wednesday — as televised impeachment hearings begin in the House of Representatives — journalists need to be on their game. The stakes don’t get much higher when it comes to fulfilling their core mission: informing citizens of what they really need to know.

Here’s a refresher course in what needs to go right.

Stress substance, not speculation. Journalists and pundits love to ponder about how the public is reacting to news, though they aren’t much good at it.

Avoiding that would be a public service.

“Decline to speculate on how this is playing to voters in the swing states,” is the advice of New York University professor and press critic Jay Rosen.

A related issue: The extreme likelihood that the media will be focusing on the partisan fight, rather than the substance of what is being proved or not proved in the hearings themselves.

“Journalists can focus less on combat and more on clarity,” is how Rosen puts it. [Continue reading…]

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