Now that US media outlets are starting to openly discuss impeachment with regard to Donald Trump, it’s probably a good idea to look back at the only impeachment that resulted in a president resigning—that of Richard Nixon. Going online, the first thing that strikes one is the measured and low key tone of the media coverage in 1974. Reading the stories filed in the Washington Post by reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein you can’t help but draw a contrast between the tone of those stories and the hair-on-fire stuff we currently see on CNN. Then the reporters crafted stories that simply piled fact on fact in an almost dispassionate tone. It took the New York Times and the broadcast media a while to catch up to the Washington Post, but again there was little of what we see now – a race between news outlets to be the first with some small tidbit. Of course the big difference between now and then was the absence of cable news. The only TV news available was at the supper hour, and was helmed by the likes of Walter Cronkite who wouldn’t have been caught dead coming back from every commercial break exclaiming “Breaking News” as Blitzer annoyingly does. Trump has proven to be a total buffoon, maybe worse; and at the end of the day there may be some impropriety associated with his Russian contacts during the 2016 campaign and after; but as news editors understood in 1974, the fact that something as serious as impeachment is even a possibility, requires the media to be scrupulously un biased in their coverage. A cheerleading tone will destroy the credibility that has just started to creep back into the national media since Trump’s election. A media-driven witch-hunt will polarize the US like never before. The reason Nixon resigned was, not because of the media or the Democrat opposition; but because he had lost the support of key members of his own party and a significant number of people who voted for him. And back then there was a great deal more trust in the media as an unbiased source of information.
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