Despite historic nature of impeachment, some major news organizations put story on back burner

Posted December 12, 2019 12:10 a.m. EST

— A version of this article first appeared in the "Reliable Sources" newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

For only the fourth time in history, the President of the United States is facing impeachment. It's a historic moment. And yet, some of the country's biggest news organizations are putting the story on the back burner. Despite the House Judiciary Committee beginning debate over the articles of impeachment Wednesday evening, the news wasn't in the top three stories on the three major broadcast networks.

ABC, CBS, and NBC all led their programs with the shooting at the Jersey kosher market. David Muir then covered the arctic blast and IG report. Lester Holt moved on to the tentative Harvey Weinstein settlement and New Zealand volcano. And Norah O'Donnell reported on the Boeing 737 MAX and IG report. Impeachment was the No. 4 story on all the major nets.

No impeachment story on NYT A1

But the impeachment story isn't just fading from the network news broadcasts. The first edition of NYT's A1 on Thursday features no stories on impeachment. Instead, only a small blurb indicates that the House Judiciary Committee "met at night to debate the articles," and refers readers to page A19 for coverage. Yep, the paper of record will have only a minimal reference to impeachment on Thursday's front page...

Fox & MSNBC carry regular programming

Over on cable news, CNN was the only outlet to carry the impeachment hearings uninterrupted. MSNBC carried the opening statements and dipped in and out, but largely charged through with normal prime time programming. Fox News didn't even carry the opening statements live. The network aired normal programming throughout the night, occasionally playing a sound bite or two from the proceedings.

A reminder

News industry and political professionals are plugged into the news cycle and know the twists and turns of the impeachment story. But it's worth keeping in mind, there is a considerable amount of the country that does not live on Twitter and watch cable news all day. They count on programs like the evening news. And those who tuned in Wednesday were seeing stories like the arctic blast or New Zealand volcano prioritized above history in the making.


-- Margaret Sullivan's latest is great: "Headlines, in print and on screens, provide a snapshot of news delivered to a fractured nation..." (WaPo)

-- Lindsey Graham (predictably) took swipes at the media as he opened the Michael Horowitz hearing Wednesday... (Mediaite)

-- Online posts indicated that one of the suspects in Tuesday's shooting at a New Jersey kosher deli had pushed anti-Semitic conspiracy theories... (NBC News)

-- James Comey will appear on "Fox News Sunday" with Chris Wallace this weekend. The booking comes after Comey said he was canceled by "Fox & Friends" earlier in the week, an assertion the network has denied... (Daily Beast)

-- Right-wing personality Mark Levin was at the White House for Trump's signing of an executive order targeting anti-Semitism. He referred to Trump as "the first Jewish President of the United States..."

-- Reminder from NYT's Annie Karni: "The canceling of the WH media Christmas party was a story last year, and now it's just gone and it's not even a thing, like the press briefing and the NYT/WaPo subscriptions..." (Twitter)

Read more of Wednesday's "Reliable Sources" newsletter... And subscribe here to receive future editions in your inbox...

Todd: FBI misconduct "alarming," but facts being "warped" to fuel "presidential conspiracy theories"

The FISA abuse unearthed by Inspector General Michael Horowitz is alarming. It shouldn't be swept under the rug. That said, since Horowitz dropped his report on Monday, right-wing personalities have been focused almost solely on that portion of the report. They've been using it to paint the entire Russia investigation with a broad brush, and suggest it proves the investigation was rotten.

Over at MSNBC, Chuck Todd did an excellent job getting at this. Todd acknowledged the FBI misconduct was "alarming." But he went on to note that "the facts are being distorted more by spin, and in some cases, conspiracy theories." Todd explained, "The facts have been warped to defend the president here. Counter-narratives have been pushed and presidential conspiracy theories taken hold as part of this broader information war." Mediaite has more here...

Fox's Chris Wallace made a similar point...

Over on Fox, Chris Wallace made a similar point. Wallace said there was "terrible misconduct" and called it a "serious deal." But Wallace added, "That doesn't mean the entire Russia investigation was fraudulent."

>> More shooting inside the tent: Wallace's colleague, pro-Trump Fox personality Dan Bongino, turned to Twitter to throw shade on him for the comment...

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