If you watch Stewart’s attack carefully, you might notice something: It was completely unfair. Notinaccurate,
but unfair. Stewart did a bunch of things that no journalist could, or
should, ever get away with. He showed ultra-short clips of anchors and
reporters saying things that, by themselves, sounded really stupid but,
in context, may not have been quite as dumb as they seemed (though some
surely were). And he included clips of interviewees saying dumb things,
something for which CNBC bears no blame (unless they went totally
unchallenged, which I assume in some cases they did).

If you wank any harder you’re gonna pull something. In the first place, and I can’t believe six years on I still have to yell about this, but sniffing that Stewart isn’t a journalist is like trying to insult me by saying I’ll never win an Olympic medal in figure skating. I mean, my triple toe loop isn’t the question here. In the second place, what is that last sentence? “CNBC is blameless unless they did THIS, which in some cases they did, so they might not be blameless, unless they are.” Jesus tits.

(The thing you could argue was unfair about what Stewart did — aside
from the appended commentary, which on a regular TV news station would
have been delivered by the news director or what have you — was to
fail to present CNBC with an opportunity to respond in an official
capacity to the staggering incompetence he exposed. Other than that, I
can’t think of a single thing that wouldn’t have been applauded in any
non-wanker-filled newsroom in the country.)

What exactly is out of bounds journalistically about calling people on their bullshit? Honestly, I don’t know what a journalist’s job IS if not pointing out the discrepancy between what was predicted and what happened. I can’t tell you how many times I did this: So and so said. Yesterday, the exact opposite occurred. From this juxtaposition the following eight people drew the conclusion that Politician X or Preacher Y is taking the following action. It’s not then followed up with “I can’t decide which of these people I’d rather see in jail” but if you DON’T come to that conclusion you need to go back to elementary school and learn how to read.

The only reason you ever write about what’s fucked up is the hope that someone, somewhere, will read or see your reporting and FIX THE FUCKING PROBLEM. Journalists historically have been advocates for all kinds of change and action. It’s why you have editorials in newspapers: to urge particular solutions to the problems your reporters have been writing about. It’s why you fucking exist. When I was doing it, it was to get child molesters thrown out of churches. “Bishop X said this, but five years ago, he did this, this, this and this.” I’m so glad I didn’t know that that was unfair.

Look, we are all in our own ways trying to make the world a better place and storytellers do it by shoving the great and glorious life we live back in our faces so that we have to look at it honestly. It’s not to put a tab in a slot, it’s to get stuff done. Dan Mitchell spends an entire page of text sniffing that Stewart isn’t a journalist, which Stewart himself has pointed out many times, but he fails to answer the central question Mitchell says was raised by Stewart’s work:

“Why don’t the mainstream media do this kind of thing? Why is it left to comedians?”

Take it away, Will Bunch:

Jon Stewart’s act of journalism — reported, of course, by his ace team
of writers — worked because there were no interviews at all. It all
hung instead on meticulous research, dredging up lethal quips of CNBC’s
stock pumping hosts to hang them with theior own undeniable words
— Jim Cramer’s “buy buy buy” when the Dow was roughly double what it
is today, his touting of Bear Stearns’ and Bank of
America’s doomed stocks. The kind of research that’s so hard for most
newspapers to do anymore, with downsized staffs and ever-looming
deadlines, but which can so often belies the spin from our “accessible”


4) The First Amendment doesn’t say anything about not being funny, or
not being passionate. I don’t know about you, if you actually watched
the piece, but I feel like I learned something important —
confirming the cheerleading nature of the nation’s most-watched source
for business news, even in a moment of oncoming disaster — but I also
busted my gut laughing as I did. And there’s nothing wrong with that,
informing and entertaining at the same time — isn’t that what
newspapers are charging people 75 cents for?

So if Dan Mitchell up there can just put the lotion back in the cabinet when he’s done, we’d all appreciate it.

Via Romenesko.


11 thoughts on “Passion

  1. But hedid give CNBC a chance to rebut – this piece was in response to Rick Santelli bailing out of his scheduled interview with Jon.

  2. You knew the Whiners would come out after Jon. Whenever his show goes for the jugular and it makes news, the object of that attack will start up the Wah-mbulance almost immediately.
    No wonder there’s a pox on newsrooms in America now. They seem to be full of pissy little third-graders and spoiled children.
    “Mommy! Jonny made fun of me! Make him stop! He’s telling people I’m not your favorite anymore! Waaaa!”
    I’m not a journalist but the classes I did take took place in a building called Murrow Hall (Washington State Univ.) Yes, THAT Murrow.
    If he were alive today, he’s die from embarrassment.
    I think I should go watch “Good Night and Good Luck” one more time just for the nostalgia.

  3. I remember Ruckeyser’s old Wall Street Week back in the late 60s. It was probably the first financial talk show, and my parents were big fans of it. Every year, around New Year’s, they’d get together and dissect their own predictions for the ending year before predicting the next year’s markets. It was partly played for laughs, if only because it was usually so embarrassing. The markets were just as unpredictable back then. Still, they were being honest about the value of their predictions. You had to make choices, and they were basically offering you rationales.
    Nowadays, such introspection is anathema. I was glad to see Stewart doing what someone should have been doing on a regular basis. The closest we get from the traditional media is when the New York Times ran their Why Our Plumbing Failed series of op-eds by the guys who screwed up their plumbing. Then, they kept those proven incompetents on the payroll. I’ll use the bathrooms at the PA bus terminal where the plumbing works.

  4. No matter how influential it is, TDS is a comedy show first and foremost. Period. Giving people a chance to rebut turns it into something else. If people are upset by satire and parody and comedy, then they need to make the world stop doing stupid shit that provides ammunition for such commentary.
    What’s that? One can’t possibly stop such things? Then STFU and get over it.

  5. I’m wondering why this one piece has had such an impact. Stewart and Colbert do this kind of stuff every day, and have for years. The night Stewart “took CNBC down”, as so many are calling it, he was better than his usual on-target self, but Colbert was on fire that night too, with Glen Beck as his target. So why is everyone getting their undies in a bundle about this one? Anyone who doesn’t watch these shows for a laugh AND information that isn’t being presented elsewhere is missing an opportunity to be better informed, whether by a “real” journalist or not.

  6. This, “If only the provided context!” is a typical dodge of the right wing. And unless they prefaced the comment with something like, “Only a total LOSER would say,” Or “I WOULD NEVER SAY…” they are just using that to force the power out of the argument.
    I remember when the KSFO people were crying about this. El Gato Negro and a few others did a post about context of comments and how they didn’t change when you played the entire hour of the show. In fact, it often just made them look worse. In my last letter to the KSFO advertisers I had MASSIVE context with full text and audio clips. Context didn’t change a bit.
    After we provide context to the entire clip people like Hannity started saying, “No, you have to listen to my ENTIRE SHOW, to get the context.” and he loves to go back in his own 8 year history and LIE, “I’ve NEVER said” or “What I’ve always said was…” “What I actually said was…” and then he expects people to go through his entire history of comments in order to hold him to an exact lie and when you prove it they go all meta and simply say “What I really meant was metaphorical…’
    What I don’t think people get sometimes is the resources that are spent at the corporate level to keep these people making safe comments. They have to worry about making statements that are Material events, stuff that will move the stock. That is something they take very seriously so they are very careful in what they say. The media are often afraid to push past the first level of questions for two reasons. 1) The don’t really have the knowledge to push deeper,
    2) They want the “get” of interviewing some big cheese and don’t want to get the reputation as a tough interview. Believe me, the companies work hard to protect the CEO from even the weakest interviewer.
    There are times that I’d love to be whispering in the ear of the journalist, (ask THIS question and “Don’t take that answer, ask a follow up!”) I tried to do this during the Pet food crisis and was feeding journalists data and questions that they could ask. I also was working with 6 other bloggers to feed info to Dick Durbin so he could grill the heads of the Pet Food Company and to the Pet Food Manufacturer’s association. It was great for him to be able to watch Sen. Durbin use our questions to make them squirm.
    What was interesting in that was watching the way the FDA maintained control over the press by only allowing one question PER NEWSPAPER or media outlet and to maintain the phone system so that you have to push a button to ask a question, once you had asked your question and they moved to another paper you couldn’t ask another EVEN if you have a very relevant question. I wrote all the journalists and told them why they needed to be able to get follow ups, but no
    one listened to a lowly blogger like me.

  7. “Why don’t the mainstream media do this kind of thing? Why is it left to comedians?”
    Because the comedians are paying enough attention toknow when they’re lying.

  8. Missy’s right, Santelli could have tried to rebut this if he’d showed up, but unlike Missy (and many other commenters on Stewart’s piece) I don’t think this was just whining about Santelli ditching out on the interview at the last minute. I think the reason Santelli blew off Stewart is that CNBC got wind that this piece was in the offing and he didn’t want to be around when the hammer fell.

  9. I didn’t think the piece was whining about Santelli, Darrel – I just meant to point out that CNBC would have had a chance to rebut if Santelli had had the guts to show up.

  10. how dare stewart!
    i saw about a 10 minute youtube of the CNBACers or was it Fux poohpoohing a guy in 06′ warning that the economy was going to blow up and we would have hard recession.
    nobody EVER listens to casandra.

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