Jon Stewart: Media Should be Powerful tool of Illumination

Last night, Jon Stewart had CNBC’s Jim Cramer on The Daily Show for an interview that was cleverly introduced as a sendup of the contrived drama seen on mainstream TV news shows.

But as soon as the interview began, Stewart was serious – the hard-hitting journalist speaking real truth to power. His entire effort should be a lesson for all journalists, because it reminds us what real journalism looks like.

Real journalism is evident in the actions of people who do their research, find the facts, and relentlessly pursue truthful answers – all without telling you they’re doing it in a cheap attempt to make you think they’re on your side. I’m wary of anybody who has to advertise what they’re doing with slogans like “Fair and Balanced”, show titles like “No Bias, No Bull”, and segment titles like “Keeping Them Honest” – as if I’m not smart enough to get it just by watching them in action.

On the Huffington Post, Jake Coyle says:

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 on your adventure.”

Responding to Coyle’s article, commenter Sons says:

Stewart won himself a very high perch in vital national matters tonight. He spoke brilliantly for the vast, vast majority of Americans who have been so damaged by this financial crisis.

In a piece titled And a Comic Shall Lead Them, James Moore writes:

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.

Unfortunately for traditional journalism, the audience increasingly realizes that much of the material presented is manufactured controversy that requires no resolution. Stewart, though, gives us the laconic and wiseass view of the day’s news and nothing he says seems contrived. Strangely, his entire broadcast is a contrivance and yet it remains the most enlightening in the spectrum of TV “news.”

Responding to Moore’s piece, commenter arkansasgirl says:

Jon Stewart is my hero. I know how uncomfortable it must be to speak truth to power (not that Jim Cramer is all that powerful, but the Wall Street and bank interests he represents are), but God knows we desperately need someone who has a national forum to do just that. The mainstream media is never going to do it.

During Friday’s White House briefing, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about the exchange, and the reporter asking the question referred to Stewart’s work as serious journalism:

Somewhat more surprising was the fact that the reporter who asked Gibbs about the Cramer interview referred to Stewart’s work as “serious journalism.” That it was good reporting by the “Daily Show” host is indisputable. That professional journalists are in awe of a comedian is telling.