The recent spat between Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, and Jim Cramer, host of Mad Money on CNBC has been entertaining. It started with a scathing 8 minute video clip of the incestuous relationship between the talking heads on CNBC and the CEOs and climaxed with a face to face discussion between Stewart and Cramer on The Daily Show Thursday night. But why should we care about two TV hosts bantering back and forth like enemies on the junior high play ground? It’s because it shows a light on the problems we have in our so called free press.
As I’ve written before, the classic idea of the press is to be advocate of the people who are suppose to be objective and ask our leaders the tough questions, we, the public either would like to ask ourselves or need an answer. When the press fails to do that, as all too often happens in the corporate media of today, their reporting becomes more like propaganda than journalism.
Jon Stewart and his Daily Show staff – which by the way is a comedy show – showed in their 8 minute clip that CNBC missed the recent financial melt down even as the red flags marched down Wall Street and instead they continued to have a parade of CEOs on claiming “don’t panic”. CNBC was so caught up in having the access to all these rich guys they failed to report about the storm clouds and problems that started in the housing market in 2007.
Financial news shows are not the place to be passing off press releases from CEOs as reporting. People who trusted the network got hurt if they didn’t take action before the market melt down. As Stewart told Cramer last night on his show “This is not a game…”
As James Moore wrote on Huffington Post:
Nonetheless, reporters at the big TV networks and the major publications have no excuse. Minute by minute people like Jim Cramer are feeding crap into our culture and public perceptions and it has nothing to do with reality and everything to do with their egos. How is it that a comedian is the first person to hold accountable these cheerleaders who are promoting a team that has no chance to win and, in some cases, isn’t even in the damned game?
Analysts doing the autopsy on newspaper reporting and the corpse of mainstream journalism are constantly lamenting the fact that so many young people and an increasing number of others are getting their news from Jon Stewart and Comedy Central. Where else is there left to look for thoughtful, analytical, and insightful analysis of the issues of our day? The yuks are just a bonus. Cable news shows can proclaim “no bias, no bull” all they want but every story is framed for a purpose, which is drama and conflict. The viewers and the readers aren’t there without the dramatic tension. You might as well be watching Law and Order: Special News Unit.
And a Comic Shall Lead Them
Yes, negative press can hurt a business but journalists have a responsibility to report the truth even if that means negative reports about a business or market. An uninformed public is a powerless public and they get hurt far worse than these CEOs who stole our money. As Stewart pointed out our 401k’s capitalized their adventures.
Here is part 3 of the Stewart vs Cramer interview on the Thursday Daily Show
Saw this bit in a column by Glenn Greenwald on Salon’s website and thought it makes the same point I was making but includes the entire press establishment:
That’s the heart of the (completely justifiable) attack on Cramer and CNBC by Stewart. They would continuously put scheming CEOs on their shows, conduct completely uncritical “interviews” and allow them to spout wholesale falsehoods. And now that they’re being called upon to explain why they did this, their excuse is: Well, we were lied to. What could we have done? And the obvious answer, which Stewart repeatedly expressed, is that people who claim to be “reporters” are obligated not only to provide a forum for powerful people to make claims, but also to then investigate those claims and then to inform the public if the claims are true. That’s about as basic as it gets.
Today, everyone — including media stars everywhere — is going to take Stewart’s side and all join in the easy mockery of Cramer and CNBC, as though what Stewart is saying is so self-evidently true and what Cramer/CNBC did is so self-evidently wrong. But there’s absolutely nothing about Cramer that is unique when it comes to our press corps. The behavior that Jon Stewart so expertly dissected last night is exactly what our press corps in general does — and, when compelled to do so, they say so and are proud of it.
There’s nothing unique about Jim Cramer