There is much ado on the Internet about the recent spat between Jon Stewart (of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show) and Jim Cramer (of CNBC’s Mad Money).
The article that articulates my thoughts on the matter is written by Glenn Greenwald. Please do read it.
Faiqa posted about the incident and she wonders if Stewart is being too idealistic. I respectfully disagree. I think that our standards for realism are far too low. It should not be considered idealism to expect journalistic media outlets to investigate what they report. If we wanted regurgitation we would simply read the CEOs’ company “vision” web pages. It should not be considered idealism to want politicians to serve the public interest over corporate interest. This is a level of realism that we should come to expect and one that we should strive for.
Idealism would be a pony for your birthday and a free constant supply of chocolate ice cream.
The reason I’m writing this post, however, is to respond to Paul Hoffman’s post because he doesn’t have comments on his site.
Paul says (I am reproducing the entire post here because it’s not that long, the emphasis is mine):
What a letdown. One of the jobs of a host is to listen to what the guest says and respond, not to launch pre-scripted volleys. What Jim Cramer said, repeatedly, is that he tries to do what Jon thinks that a financial program should do.
That wasn’t good enough for Stewart, however; Jon indicates that Cramer is supposed to be responsible for the whole CNBC network. Does Stewart take responsibility for all the shows with misogynist comedy on Comedy Central? That seems unlikely.
The double-standard Stewart sets up is even worse than that, however. He repeatedly says that Cramer is responsible for covering a wider swath of news in Cramer’s admittedly-entertaining program because Cramer’s audience is just regular schmoes who don’t know any better. But there are a zillion people, particularly teenagers, who get all their TV news from the Daily Show. Stewart doesn’t seem to feel responsible for giving them a wider swath of news; you rarely see anything about difficult international topics on The Daily Show. Why should Cramer-the-entertainer be held to a different standard that Stewart-the-entertainer?
Actually, Jon was not indicating that Cramer is responsible for the whole CNBC network. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Jon starts off with:
Let me just explain to you very quickly one thing that is somewhat misinterpreted. This was not directed at you, per se. I just want you to know that.
Why should Cramer be held to a different standard than Stewart? I’ll say here what Stewart said to Tucker Carlson during his visit to Crossfire, “What is wrong with you?”. Jon Stewart’s show is on Comedy Central. When people want to watch The Daily Show they change the channel to a network that airs comedy shows. When people watch Cramer’s Mad Money, they tune into CNBC a news media network. Are you telling me that these two shows should be held to the same standards?
Stewart makes specific mention of this point, which he takes exception to, he points out that the promo for Cramer’s show says “In Cramer We Trust”. The tagline for the show is “Make Money with Money Manager Jim Cramer”. You must agree that the context to the shows are very different and the claims each show makes are very different. Stewart says:
Isn’t that, you know, look—we are both snake oil salesmen to a certain extent-
But we do label the show as snake oil here. Isn’t there a problem with selling snake oil and labelling it as vitamin tonic and saying that it cures impetigo… Isn’t that the difficulty here?
Paul, I think you need to watch the segment again. This time with more listening.
By the way, I think Cramer handled the show fairly well. There is no doubt that Stewart has a specific point of view and bias, but it is worth listening to.
Stewart raises a very important question. “What is your role?”, this is both in reference to Cramer and CNBC. What is the role of CNBC as a media network that is engaging in financial journalism. Is the excuse “Jee what can I tell you, the CEOs lied to us” an acceptable one? Who is supposed to put the ‘investigative’ in investigative journalism? What are the standards can we expect from organizations that claim to be journalistic? What standards should be hold them to?
What Stewart does imply, and I agree with him, is that the media has become a mouthpiece for politicians and corporations. Stewart says that they, the financial media, knew what was going on but continued to report the lies they were being fed. Please note that Cramer did not refute this.
What, then, is the role of “the news media” in a “democracy”? Are they fulfilling this role? What needs to be done to keep the news media honest? Shouldn’t the news media be keeping others honest?