WTTG Covers First 'Social Media' Impeachment

Fox-owned WTTG-TV Washington is alone among the major affiliate stations in the Nation's Capital not airing live coverage of the impeachment hearings just across town. But there is more to the story. 

WTTG and co-owned WDCA VP GM Patrick Paolini took a quick break Friday (Nov. 15), in the midst of the station's coverage of the day-two hearing, to talk about that decision and the Fox' O&O's larger coverage strategy. 

B&C: In checking on impeachment coverage, we turned to WTTG Wednesday (Nov. 13) to find regular programming while the other affiliates in town were going live with the impeachment hearings. Why did you make that decision and how are you covering the hearings? 

Paolini: We have the benefit of two television stations [serving Washington], both of which do news, Fox 5, WTTG, and Fox 5 Plus, WDCA. We chose to go gavel-to-gavel on Fox 5 Plus.  

Then, because this is, in essence, the first social media impeachment from a hearing perspective, we decided to take our political reporter, Tom Fitzgerald, and pair him up with a Democrat and Republican and stream [the hearings] live. 

We are also streaming the hearings on our Facebook page.

We thought that was the best way to cover this and, at the same time, viewers who aren't interested can get the regularly scheduled programming on Fox 5. 

B&C: So, going with regular fare on WTTG was also a little bit about counterprogramming, particularly given that the live impeachment TV audience is being divided among CBS and PBS and ABC and NBC and FNC and CNN, etc? 

Paolini: We have the luxury and ability to use both of our stations, which are both in the news business and we thought we were being strategic about it. We could appease the audience who watch our daily programming and we could cover the audience from an impeachment standpoint. And, yes, from a counterprogramming standpoint keep the lineup intact on WTTG. And then, from a digital perspective, with live analysis and full coverage on our Fox 5 live platform.  

B&C: Did you cross-promote the WDCA coverage on WTTG? 

Paolini: Absolutely. We promoted leading up to it in our newscast with crawls. And, literally when it started we tossed to it [from WTTG to WDCA]. We were fortunate that we were still in our morning news on WTTG when the hearing started at 10 a.m. on Wednesday and, of course, today at 9 a.m. So we had the live toss from WTTG, which was also a way to get new viewers to WDCA, where we have been expanding our news. It was a way to expose Fox 5 coverage to new viewers on both stations.  

B&C: What is your read on the hearings so far?  

Paolini: I think it is a little "snoozier," if that's a word, than the Comey and Mueller hearings. I don't know how much interest there is from an across-the-country standpoint. We really thought we were smart about the way we approached it becuase again, we have the two stations, and with the digital and social media side a lot of people are out of their homes so at least they get a sense of what's going on.  

We do 80 hours of news a week on WTTG, so in every single newscast we are covering it and analyzing it and giving it full exposure from that standpoint, outside the gavel-to-gavel coverage.  

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.