#MediaFail

Good stuff from Aaron Rupar in Vox:

The proceedings got to the very core of what the office of the presidency is supposed to be about in our country. It was the stuff of history. But to hear Reuters and NBC tell it, one of the major faults of the hearing was that it simply lacked pizzazz.

Both outlets were roundly dragged for posting news analysis stories that focused on the entertainment value (or purported lack thereof) of the hearing. NBC’s piece, authored by Jonathan Allen, claimed that the hearing “lacked the pizazz necessary to capture public attention” — a turn of phrase that quickly became a meme and echoed the talking points Trump family members and administration officials used.

NBC News

@NBCNews

Analysis: The first two witnesses called Wednesday testified to President Trump’s scheme, but lacked the pizzazz necessary to capture public attention. https://nbcnews.to/2pfAayE

Plenty of substance, little drama at first open impeachment hearing

Analysis: The first two witnesses called Wednesday testified to Trump’s scheme, but lacked the pizazz necessary to capture public attention.

nbcnews.com

31.1K people are talking about this

Meanwhile, Reuters’ Jeff Mason and Patricia Zengerle wrote that the hearing was “dull” and lacked “bang.”

Jeff Mason

@jeffmason1

Consequential, but dull: Trump impeachment hearings begin without a bang https://reut.rs/36Xkr8B

Consequential, but dull: Trump impeachment hearings begin without a…

Democratic lawmakers tried their hand at reality television with mixed results on Wednesday as they presented arguments to the American public for the impeachment of a former star of the genre,…

reuters.com

11.5K people are talking about this

Mason and Zengerle’s lede bizarrely compared the impeachment hearing to reality television.

“Democratic lawmakers tried their hand at reality television with mixed results on Wednesday as they presented arguments to the American public for the impeachment of a former star of the genre, Donald Trump,” it said. (In a similar vein, NBC’s piece said the hearing “felt more like the dress rehearsal for a serious one-act play than the opening night of a hit Broadway musical.”)

That sort of framing isn’t just a self-fulfilling analysis signaling to prospective news consumers that they can safely tune out the unexciting impeachment hearings. It’s also, as anyone who remembers lengthy cable news shots of Trump’s empty podium can attest, the exact sort of fixation on entertainment and optics over substance that played a key role in helping Trump win in 2016 in the first place. But if you hoped that major outlets learned something from that experience, the framing of the NBC and Reuters dispatches about the first public impeachment hearing was disappointing.

As has frequently been observed, an impeachment is ultimately a political matter and not a legal one.  So, it certainly does matter how all this comes across to the public.  But we sure as hell don’t need journalists flashing their “savvy“/I’m not here to take sides, bona fides by reporting extraordinary damning testimony, soberly delivered, as “boring.”

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

4 Responses to #MediaFail

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    Today’s testimony offered pizzazz off the walls. Thank you, Madame Ambassador! Your dignity opposed to the Trump Tweets emphasized his inane indecency,

  2. itchy says:

    “As has frequently been observed, an impeachment is ultimately a political matter and not a legal one.”

    OK, I’ve read this a dozen times, and it makes no sense. Yes, perhaps an impeachment proceeding doesn’t follow all the same rules as a legal proceeding, but … a successful impeachment against the president of the US means he is no longer legally allowed to act as president.

    In what way is not not a “legal matter”?

    I can’t get past how ridiculous this “pizzazz” stuff all sounds. Do decisions that were enacted via entertaining methods carry more weight than those that weren’t?

    Did the boring Republican tax cuts really not happen? If the US Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade, but the case proceeds in a mundane and predictable way, does it not count?

    • Steve Greene says:

      Whomever the “pizzaz” person was, they are getting killed on the internet. I actually think this will be shorthand for really vapid political commentary for years to come.

      Also, political in the sense of gross abuse of power is not necessarily a crime. We certainly follow various legal procedures and in following a Constitutional procedure, sure, it’s legal. But it’s not legal in the more narrow sense of “did the president break the law” or not.

      • itchy says:

        OK, I get it. Not a legal proceeding, meaning, “We don’t have to prove the office holder committed a criminal act.”

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