Friday, March 13, 2009

'Daily Show' Massacre: Jon Stewart as a New Brand of Media Critic

It was so brutal last night, when Jon Stewart absolutely destroyed CNBC's Jim Cramer's will to live during his Daily Show interview that I almost felt badly for Cramer. Thought he'd burst into tears at any moment. He was reduced to a quivering shell. (The first part of the three-part interview is below, link here.)

Several interview post-mortems have called Stewart a new kind of fearless media critic who's doing the work that the "real" journalists won't do, which is holding pundits accountable for what they say on the air and for the impact of those words on others. In the case of the CNBC analysts (Cramer, et al), Stewart's point was that when they urge people to "Buy! Buy! Buy!" stocks in certain companies, people listen because CNBC bills itself as the place for insightful business news from experts in the field. But when their prognostications go awry, the commentators don't own the responsibility for their words . . . until Stewart skewers them, as was Cramer's case last night. THEN they finally admit that mistakes were made.

The Atlantic's James Fallows, author of a fantastic book on the media called Breaking the News, likened Stewart's interview with Cramer to interviews by the ground-breaking Edward R. Murrow, noting, "I thought Stewart, without excessive showboating, did the journalistic sensibility proud."

The New York Times' media reporter Brian Stelter observed: "Mr. Stewart questioned Mr. Cramer about the perception that CNBC acts as a cheerleader for the investment community. 'The financial news industry is not just guilty of a sin of omission but a sin of commission,' Mr. Stewart said. Mr. Cramer agreed that he made a number of faulty predictions over the years."

The Associated Press described Stewart as "hammering" Cramer and telling the commentator that the fall-out from his and his colleagues' bad predictions was no joke. AP reported:

"Stewart said he and Cramer are both snake-oil salesmen, only The Daily Show is labeled as such. He claimed CNBC shirked its journalistic duty by believing corporate lies, rather than being an investigative 'powerful tool of illumination.' And he alleged CNBC was ultimately in bed with the businesses it covered -- that regular people's stocks and 401Ks were 'capitalizing your adventure.'"

This interview harkened back to Stewart's obliteration of CNN's Crossfire in 2004 where the comedian called the political pundits on the carpet for contributing nothing but negativism and bile to our national political discussions and asked them to just "stop." He was as ruthless then as he was last night. (FYI: The quality of the video below isn't great.)

I'm a regular viewer of political chat shows. Morning Joe. This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Fox News Sunday. Meet the Press (a shell of its former self from the Russert years). Hardball with Chris Matthews. But this particular interview, aired on COMEDY Central, was one of the toughest and on-the-money interviews I've seen in some time, even tougher than Katie Couric's Sarah Palin piece. When I turned off my TV last night, I was still stunned by what I'd witnessed.


Anonymous said...

While I enjoy watching Cramer every night, one must remember the show is primarily entertainment. The financial networks exist to promote their advertisers financial and investment products. Who would expect them to warn about the credit bubble or coming Washington national debt collapse which will destroy much of the remaining private wealth in America today or what this will do to the dollar, the stock market, bonds, gold or the real estate market?

China is now worried about their dangerous over investment in US Treasury obligations. Washington ’s long-term choice is either repudiation or monetization. For monetization to be effective, the depreciation in the dollar would have to be substantial and this in turn would dramatically raise prices of imports for American consumers which would mean a tremendous drop in foreign imports. Debt monetization would cause more disruption to exporting nations than selective repudiation of Treasury debt.

The Campaign to Cancel the Washington National Debt By 12/22/2013 Constitutional Amendment is starting now in the U.S. See:


Ron with 30 plus years in the investment business and banking industry.

Howard said...

Why does it take a COMEDY show host to provide one of the most accurate and questioning interview of a business commentator and cheerleader? Perhaps we have allowed the infotainment lines to blur too far, without promoting a clearer link between advertisers and biases.

Many informative programming is really nothing more than an infomercial. Except in infomercials, at least you know who is paying the bill and what they are trying to support or sell. That isn't always clear on CNBC, FoxNews, CNN or any other, but it really isn't any different.