Something happened Thursday that hardly ever happens anymore: The news media stopped and collectively focused on one event. There was no other story in this otherwise fragmented news world; James Comey’s congressional testimony was it and only it.

Fox News metaphorically locked arms with CNN, which linked with MSNBC and HLN and Fox Business and CNBC and CSPAN and PBS in airing the former FBI director’s testimony before the Senate intelligence committee. The commercial broadcast networks swept aside “Let’s Make a Deal,” “The Price is Right” and other syndicated trifles to carry it live for nearly 2 1/2 hours. Univision (“Comey: El Testimonio”) provided hushed simultaneous English-to-Spanish translation of the proceedings.

Public radio stations fed the audio. Dozens of websites streamed the live feed. On Twitter, comey, comeyhearings and jamescomey all trended simultaneously.

It was this way for epic congressional hearings of yore, from Army-McCarthy in 1954 through Watergate, Iran-contra and Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearings. But the key word is “yore.” All of those were artifacts of a bygone media age, long before an explosion of news sources made living in an info-bubble possible if not desirable. Those hearings were a product of the pre-internet, pre-10,000 channel, pre-Netflix universe when media consensus was easily achieved.

But now? Outside of presidential elections and a thankfully rare national emergency such as 9/11, America’s news industry flies on many separate beams. The news agenda is in pieces, dependent on the demographic imperatives and perceived audience tastes of each outlet and organization. There is no consensus on an agenda, and certainly no consensus about something as telegenically inert as a congressional hearing.

Cable networks fueled the buildup to Comey-Palooza with countdown clocks, 10-member talking-head panels, and prehearing hallway shots of senators arriving like heavyweights before a title fight. Although some of the surprise may have been deflated by the release of Comey’s written testimony Wednesday, the hearing was cast as a national suspense story unequaled since verdict day at O.J. Simpson’s double-murder trial in 1995.

There was no finality in the event itself. News was made during the hearing, but to what effect remains unclear.

Whether any of this will prove significant in the course of the Trump presidency is hard to know in the immediate moments after the hearing. But for about 150 minutes on a Thursday in June, the media ensured that it was something that few things are anymore: inescapable.

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