I decided to watch all the impeachment inquiry hearings for as long as I could. I recorded the sources I could not watch in real time and went back and reviewed them. I watched follow-up interviews on Fox, PBS, CNN and MSNBC.

The objective was to assess the work of the American press, which as the messenger is always somebody’s bad guy. It’s also part of another current story, because polarization is not just between Republicans and Democrats, or even conservatives and liberals. It has been boiled down to the divide between Fox Nation and Lame Stream Media. Eggheads and rednecks. Ugly generalizations.


The implication is that one group has no faith in the other to cover the news fairly. That’s a powerful tool in the hands of anyone who knows the first brick you knock out of the foundation of a democracy is credibility. Kick that out and you control the narrative; control the narrative and you can run things.

So what are the results of my news coverage assessment?

One surprise: I have for years considered PBS News Hour as the most complete and balanced electronic news source, primarily because of the quality of the analyses that result in the context of the news of the moment. Others do better on breaking news and sensational, immediate stories, but in politics and social issue reporting, PBS has outshined the rest.

But PBS was the biggest disappointment on Day One. Not biased, just incomplete. I wondered if they watched what I saw. I thought obvious questions were left unasked or overlooked by both reporters and the panel selected; I never heard of the guest commentators.

MSNBC and CNN’s coverage and commentary got passing grades. Both included a good mix of Democrat and Republican viewpoints.

Fox had more viewers than the aforementioned networks, according to viewer polling, which I find interesting. All networks used the same feed from the hearing room, so the difference probably just came down to fan favorites — habit.

Fox looked good until you note that the graphics printed in boxes during witness testimony was often out of context with the audio; while witness testimony told of misdeeds, the graphics were posting Trump team denials. That subtle, almost subliminal influence was employed less on the mainstream stations, and not at all on PBS.

My conclusion is that you saw the hearings in real time no matter which station you watched, so the opinion about who were winners and losers depends on whatever opinions you heard on the later newscasts, or on what you thought long before the hearings began.

The fact that more eyeballs were tuned in to Fox than any other can be spun to say that Fox Nation is more popular than the so-called lame stream media. Or that conservatives are more engaged in American issues, but that requires you to ignore number of combined viewers of the other networks nor does it address what those viewers are watching and reading today and tomorrow.

The hearings raised more questions than pat answers. Bottom line for me is that the open forum revealed more facts — and stimulated more curiosity about what else there is to know, than the partisan cheerleading and intimidation that has dominated public discourse to date, despite Republican efforts to discredit just about everybody who testified so far.

President Nixon’s support was about 70 percent at this stage in the process — nearly twice Trump’s. Nixon had things in common with Trump: He tried to rig the elections and then lied about it. Tried to cover it up but changed his story as the truth kept coming. Nixon intimidated enemies — kept a list of them — called the media names and enjoyed popular support among ordinary citizens because he won the election and was the president. But the facts finally carried too much weight to ignore.

Then, Americans could still be disappointed and even outraged by egregious abuse of power in high places. Then, standards of decency were more important than cult personality.

Dean Minnich retired from journalism and served two terms as a county commissioner. His column appears on Thursdays. Write to dminnichwestm@gmail.com.