Impeachment coverage: How journalists can reach the undecided

By | December 5, 2019

Margaret Sullivan writes:

The diplomats have been inspiring, the legal scholars knowledgeable, the politicians predictable.

After endless on-air analysis and written reporting, pundit panels and emergency podcasts, not much has changed.

If anything, weeks into the House of Representatives’ public impeachment hearings, Americans’ positions seem to have hardened on whether President Trump should be impeached and removed from office.

So, is the media coverage pointless? Are journalists merely shouting into the void?

Columnist Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times offered a name Wednesday for one aspect of what’s happening before our eyes.

Responding to the absurd statement of Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R-Ga.) — “there are no set facts here” — she said it summed up the long-term Republican strategy: “epistemological nihilism.”

In other words, there can be no knowledge and no meaning, so don’t even bother.

It brings to mind Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway’s coinage of the infamous term “alternative facts” early in the administration. Or Trump surrogate Scottie Nell Hughes’s on-air comment in 2016: “There is no such thing, unfortunately, anymore of facts.”

That strategy runs in direct opposition to what journalism is supposed to be all about: establishing facts and knowledge so that citizens can make decisions, armed with what Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein calls “the best obtainable version of the truth.”

How should journalists respond to the stalemate, other than to keep doing exactly what they’ve been doing?

The hint of a possible solution appears in the tracking of public opinion on impeachment at Nate Silver’s, under the headline, “Plenty Of People Are Persuadable On Impeachment.” [Continue reading…]

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