The mission to save media integrity

The Stewart vs. Cramer “event” has been bled pretty dry, and I resisted writing about it to avoid repeating what every other web outlet has already covered. So I won’t even touch on how Jon Stewart could very well instigate a movement to restore the press to its true function.

Ok, fine, I will…but the short version.

In 2004, Stewart took CNN’s Crossfire to task for wasting their on-air influence by allowing politicians and business leaders to write the rules (and interview questions). Key message from Stewart: “We need help from the media, and they’re hurting us.” Talk about an uphill battle – that was five years ago, before the media staged a full collapse into the role of conservative enabler and (some have said) contributed to an economic free-fall.

If you’re interested, here’s a refresher:

Fast forward to last week, when Stewart went back to work against CNBC. He pounded out a similar message that the network prioritizes entertainment over journalism, when its position in the business world really lent them power to recognize the ethically gray trading and corporate trends, call out the culprits and curtail the financial damage.

Here’s a summary (full acknowledgment of the irony of using the clip from CNN):

The notable piece of this is not that the confrontation occurred, but that with his Crossfire appearance five years ago Stewart cemented his position as media arbiter. Jim Cramer’s doe-eyed surrender not only showed us how accurate Stewart’s assessment of CNBC is, but how networks recognize they have to start appeasing his base — and therefore appeasing him.

I’ve commented before on the need for the press to turn back to their roots as investigators and truth-tellers. Another Pravda isn’t going to do us any favors here, and the country’s crisis of conscience and image calls for some “true grit” to remind us of the value of, well, values. With real-time reporting (blogs, Twitter, etc.) emerging as the next evolutionary step, reporters have the opportunity to move the country back in the direction of transparency and progress.

The point? I think Jon Stewart gave us a watershed moment last week. I’m marking the calendar and will check back in another five years…


3 Responses to “The mission to save media integrity”

  1. Michael Ensley Says:

    I am a huge Jon Stewart fan, but sadly he misses his own point. It is easy to sit back and pick when you want to be a journalist, or an entertainer. While I think the segment was Jon at his best, it also points out the fact that if he cares so much, prove it. Come out from behind the Comedy Central protective veil and be a better journalist.

    While I would hate to lose Jon’s sense of humor, perhaps his “greater potential” is to be what he begs of others. Or at least share time? What about going a similar road to Bill Mahr and create a Jon Stewart version of Crossfire that facilitates tougher discussion on today’s topics.

    Clearly we need a leader in this space, not another entertainer filling up the long dark hours of cable television.

    Again, I truly love Jon’s humor and wonder if he couldn’t be more!

  2. Evan Zall Says:

    I agree to a point, but I also think he’s slowly but surely doing just what you’re hoping for: he’s being more than the host of a comedy news show, he’s using his platform to reach a younger audience in a way that Bill Maher can’t.

    That said, the cows have not come home yet, and I think we’ll see more on this from Stewart.

  3. mensley Says:

    It’s been two months, and I have not seen anything from Jon. How long do you suggest we wait?

    Has he followed up on the bit from Cramer? Has he checked back in? Or does he fall victim to the “on to the next item” mentality that defines both journalism and our society.

    In one way, this mentality will help speed our economic recovery as “the Joneses just got a new car…” and into the next collapse.

    Again, I truly enjoy Jon, but wish he would eat his own dog food at times.

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