Analysis: What Did You Make Of Impeachment? It May Depend On What Media You Seek Out

Dec 19, 2019
Originally published on December 19, 2019 3:13 pm
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President Trump's impeachment yesterday was one of those historic events that captivated people all over the country, but in this fragmented media landscape, how people absorbed the news depends on which outlets they turn to. NPR media correspondent and critic David Folkenflik has this analysis.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Just take this data point. Three and a half million people watched at least part of C-SPAN's coverage of the impeachment debate, and that was just on its livestream on Twitter - 3 1/2 million for C-SPAN. An estimated 12.5 million people followed in the commercial TV networks, and that figure obviously doesn't include coverage from PBS and NPR.

FRANCES CLYMER: A lot of people get their news from local papers, also from the Billings Gazette, which is published just north of us.

FOLKENFLIK: Frances Clymer is the chief librarian for Park County, Wyo. She's based in the city of Cody.

CLYMER: They watch, maybe, Fox News. They may watch CBS News. They may watch PBS evening news. There's a diversity of platforms that people do go to to get information.

FOLKENFLIK: Cody leans strongly Republican and conservative, but Clymer says the question of impeachment is divisive even there.

CLYMER: Especially people who are really invested in the political process are quite likely to talk about what they think.

FOLKENFLIK: Last night the conservative Salem Radio Network fired a Denver right-wing talk show host and his co-host - which is to say, his wife - for expressing his yearning for what he called a nice school shooting to interrupt coverage of what he called the never-ending impeachment of Donald Trump. More traditional news organizations noted the solemnity of the day.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

WOLF BLITZER: The 45th president of the United States, as we say, becoming only the third leader since the founding of this nation to be formally charged by the full House of Representatives...

LESTER HOLT: A moment sure to define a turbulent era.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Oh, this is huge. Impeachment is really big. It's really big. This is the third time it's happened.

FOLKENFLIK: That's Wolf Blitzer of CNN, Lester Holt of NBC and Mara Liasson of NPR. News outlets largely vouch for the factual foundation for the Democratic allegations against Trump based on sworn testimony and their own reporting. They also often reflected the Republican view that the vote may hurt Democratic lawmakers, a point not made in the other direction. President Trump has drawn support, inspiration, advice and White House personnel from Fox News even as the House votes were being tallied. Fox's primetime star Tucker Carlson refocused attention elsewhere.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT")

TUCKER CARLSON: Over on the other channels, Jeff Zucker and his friends are hyperventilating.

FOLKENFLIK: Jeff Zucker being the president of CNN.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT")

CARLSON: They want you to know that this is the Hindenburg of political stories.

FOLKENFLIK: Carlson is, of course, an opinion host. Then again, 5 million people saw him on Fox News presenting the House vote on impeachment as it became official, not a news anchor.

Next up was Sean Hannity. He took long stretches of President Trump's rally in Battle Creek, Mich., and none of Pelosi's public remarks after the vote. Today about 2 gazillion daily papers published a version of the headline, "Trump Impeached" - so did the tough-on-Trump BuzzFeed News, and right below it, "Then He Yelled About Toilets." The Trump-friendly New York Post's headline, "It's Your Funeral," accompanied a front-page picture of House Speaker Pelosi clad in somber black.

Even as the vote was being tallied last night, Fox News' Carlson sounded off against CNN's reporters.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT")

CARLSON: Did you just hear that? Imagine doing that. Imagine reading a political party's talking points verbatim every day of the year and pretending that it's news.

FOLKENFLIK: Imagine.

David Folkenflik, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.