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From the January 1999 MediaWatch

Magazines: Scandal Isn't Substance

For all of televisionís lack of focus on the House managersí presentation, they actually came closer to resembling just-the-facts hard news than the news magazines. The week the trial began, you could see the lack of interest in the January 18-dated cover stories: Time featured the Y2K problem, Newsweek profiled radio talk show host Don Imus, and U.S. News & World Report promoted "Outstanding American High Schools."

The January 25 issues betrayed the same determination to downplay the trial. For cover stories, Time focused on "Too Much Homework," Newsweek on "The Michael Jordan We Never Knew," U.S. News on "The Internet Stock Bubble." The cover blurbs signaled the studied ignorance of the House managers that readers would find inside. Time ("Impeachment: the Disconnect"), Newsweek ("Clintonís Counterattack"), and U.S. News ("The White House Readies Its Defense") looked right past the week they were allegedly covering.

Time didnít hide its opinion that the trial was unimportant, beginning with its headline: "The Great Disconnect: While Washington obsesses about the Presidentís trial, Emporia, Kansas ó and the rest of the country ó are busy with more important matters." The story arrived at the managers in paragraph 25: Asa Hutchinson got 49 words. A profile of Hutchinson carried another 34 words.

Newsweekís subheadline read: "The Clinton Counterattack: As the Presidentís lawyers defend him in the Senate dock, he goes to the podium of the House to remind the country that heís a master of policy, an able steward of boom times. The people are listening, but in Washington the trial grinds on. Is Bill Clinton a visionary, a felon, or both?" Jonathan Alter suggested "the goose bumps one associates with momentous events feel more like a recurring skin rash. It canít go away soon enough." The story offered the House managers only ten words of a quote from George Gekas. While Alter focused on how Clinton would beat the rap, Newsweek disposed of the case in a small box titled "The Accusations and the Defense."

U.S. News devoted a bigger box, across most of two pages, with a similar matchup of prosecution claims and defense rebuttals. The story used only one 48-word quote from Rep. James Sensenbrenner.








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