As Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford gave their testimony in a hearing that spanned more than six hours on Thursday, the images on major news networks all looked fairly similar: Senators asking questions, Kavanaugh and Ford answering them. But, in an age where viewers’ attention spans are shrinking, the text bar at the bottom of the screen has become critical.

[Does the Senate have the votes to confirm Kavanaugh?]

These captions — also called lower-thirds chyrons — not only tell viewers what the news is, they tell them what the network wants them to make of it. In the case of a big news event, they are a window into how different networks interpret the same thing.

As the hearing took place, we captured what MSNBC, CNN and Fox News were displaying in near real-time. Every few minutes, the page updated with what the networks were showing.

Examples of how news networks displayed captions:

About this story

Chyron lower-thirds data comes from Post staff reports and the Internet Archive’s Third Eye API. Caption appearance times are rough estimates for when the captions appeared on screen. They are often on for a long duration or are repeated later during the broadcast.

Originally published Sept. 27, 2018.


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