The Impeachment News Industry Is Here to Help (Overwhelm You Even More)

0
8

Eighteen witnesses have testified in public and in private. The story seems to expand by the day, if not by the hour. A diverse cast of characters is fighting to shape the public’s understanding of what happened.

If it feels as if you’re drowning in impeachment news, analysis and spin, publishers have a product just for you. A few dozen of them, in fact. Podcasts and newsletters and at least one video series are dedicated to the topic, each promising safe harbor from the storm.

“We in journalism have created an environment that I think is overwhelming for many folks, and having a friendly voice that says, ‘Hey, you know what, that’s fine, I’ll get you caught up on this thing,’ turns out to be hugely useful,” said Dan Sinker, a journalist, writer and consultant who created one such publication, the impeachment.fyi newsletter.

Mr. Sinker introduced the newsletter on the last day of September, just a few days after wondering on Twitter why Democrats had not already done something similar. At the time, it still seemed like a relatively novel idea. Today, it is one in a crowded field.

If you are in the market for a podcast instead, there is a large menu to choose from. There is “Article II: Inside Impeachment” by NBC; “The Daily DC: Impeachment Watch” by CNN; “Impeachment Today” by BuzzFeed; “Impeachment, Explained” by Vox; and “Impeachment: A Daily Podcast” by WNYC. For a conservative viewpoint, you can listen to the former Trump administration officials Steve Bannon and Jason Miller on “War Room: Impeachment.” And then there is The Times’s “The Latest,” a series from the team behind “The Daily.”

The New Yorker staff writer Sarah Larson, who recently reviewed the lot, argues that the best impeachment-related podcast is actually one not focused entirely on the subject: “Trump, Inc.,” an investigative project from WNYC and ProPublica that examines the businesses connected to President Trump and his administration.

“Its narration is intelligent yet conversational; its sophisticated sound design guides us along without being showy or intrusive,” she wrote. “Listening, I feel like I finally grasp the topic at hand.”

There are strong audience, business and journalism arguments to be made for dedicated impeachment podcasts and newsletters, but the proliferation also reflects industry trends, said Nicholas Quah, the editor and publisher of Hot Pod, a publication dedicated to covering the podcast industry.

“It says something about the buzziness about what’s hot in media right now,” he said. “Newsletters and podcasting are the two big things. If the impeachment hearings had happened in 2017, we might be seeing more Snapchat channels or Instagram” content.

The pop-up publications are more than a gimmick, though. They also serve a genuine demand among readers and listeners, according to those who run them.

CNN, for example, has seen two to three times the number of average downloads of its daily political podcast briefing since it was rebranded last month from “The Daily DC” to “The Daily DC: Impeachment Watch,” according to Courtney Coupe, the vice president of CNN Digital Productions.

“We’re still appealing to those core news junkies, those core political junkies, but also reaching a more diverse audience: people who are just interested in this moment of time and this topic,” she said.

Ms. Coupe credits the podcast’s success to the personality and passion of its host, David Chalian, CNN’s political director, and to the fact that it publishes later in the day, when its audience is ready to catch up on the news.

“It’s a really unique opportunity for them to basically have a recap of what happened while they were busy, what happened when they weren’t watching every single second the way CNN did,” she said.

Mr. Sinker said he was heartened by how popular his newsletter had become, as well: “Almost immediately, there were way more people subscribed than I was expecting,” he said.

As of last week, the newsletter had more than 10,000 subscribers, and donations had poured in, he said, much to his surprise. He does not know when he will stop producing the newsletter, though he has no plans to quit anytime soon.

Ms. Coupe said she was not sure how long CNN would keep its daily briefing focused on impeachment, either, but added that the network had no plans to abandon the audience it had developed.

When and if interest in impeachment wanes, the program will probably shift its focus to election coverage, she said: “Whether it’s impeachment or elections, the interest in what is going on in the world of politics is just going to continue for the foreseeable future.”