Thursday, March 19, 2009

Stewart blow back

I was waiting for the backlash to be begin against Jon Stewart and it did, in a very half-assed way, yesterday.

Understand, as much as I love watching the Daily Show, I think there are legitimate criticisms that can be leveled against Stewart and the show. I think you can only hide behind the "we're just a comedy show, we're not real news, we're on Comedy Central" only so long. The show has evolved beyond that point now.

What he does is an odd hybrid and can be confusing. But I think Stewart needs to be taken more seriously, and needs to take the consequences of what he does more seriously. The Daily Show doesn't need to be 60 Minutes, but he does have to recognize its influence and that they operate just as effectively, if not moreso, than many news broadcasts. Yes, that says something about network news, but it doesn't eliminate the argument that they do serious commentary.

It also means I think he has to start doing fewer puff piece interviews. David Letterman did harder interviews with politicians than Stewart during the last US election. And I don't want the show to get all serious and lecturing. I still want the funny. I still want the scathing political and social commentary. But I'd like to hope that after what the show went through in the past few weeks, there is a growing recognition of its importance. It has to keep evolving.

It's hard work to be funny, along with serious and political. But these are talented people. I don't know if they're going to nail it every night, but I like to think they get it right far more often than they miss.

So yeah, there's criticism to be had of the show. But perhaps the first people to launch very public volleys shouldn't be people who Stewart effectively eviscerated.

First up was NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker, who is trying to do some desperate damage control to the beleagued CNBC.
"Everybody wants to find a scapegoat. That's human nature," Zucker said during a keynote address at a media industry conference. "But to suggest that the business media or CNBC was responsible for what is going on now is absurd."

Zucker also threw around words like "unfair" and "completely out of line."

I'm all for Zucker going on Stewart to defend himself. He won't, of course, because he would likely get crucified. And look, all business journalists need to do some serious soul searching in the wake of what's happened in the last six months. Standing up and saying that CNBC did a "terrific" job is a little too much like Bush telling FEMA head Michael Brown that he was "doing a heck of a job" after what happened in New Orleans.

Is CNBC completely responsible for what happened? Of course not. Does it deserve it's knuckles rapped hard for its shoddy journalism? Yes. So do a lot of business reporters. CNBC just got in early to avoid the rush.

The other person to take a shot at Stewart today was, hilariously, Tucker Carlson. He's known for being a commentator. He's known for being on the show Crossfire. And he's known for his unfortunate choice in using bowties when on air.

But man, he's famous for Jon Stewart absolutely destroying him, his show and his very existance on CNN back in 2004. Here's a refresher.

If I were Carlson, I would never utter the name "Jon Stewart" ever again, let alone write a thousand odd words about how Stewart is losing it, that people never criticize him and how he's not funny anymore. It's like standing out in a lightening storm and daring the gods to hit you.

Of all the people to whine and criticize Stewart, Tucker Carlson feels he's the best to do it. Dear God.

Of course Stewart is fair game for insightful media criticism. I'm just saying the first two out of the gate shouldn't be people with large axes to grind after they've been made very public fools of. It's just pathetic and it kind of tarnishes any legitimate criticism that might come later.

Last Five
1. Helen Wheels - Paul McCartney
2. This is such a pity - Weezer
3. Lost together - Blue Rodeo*
4. Hell yes - Beck
5. Native side - Ron Hynes


KOTN said...

I watch nightly, to the point when I say "Funny Jon" to the baby, he reacts (and he likes "Funny Jon "better than "Crazy Steve", Clobert kind of freaks him out...

Howard Kurtz -- media critic for the Washington Post --did a section in his anchor wars book about Stewart, and pointed out how much respect both Tom Brokaw and Brian Williams have for him.

The thing about softball interviews with politicians, he is soft with politicos of all stripes. John Kerry and John McCain both got loving reach arounds for interviews.

Only reason Letterman was tough on McCain was because he ditched LEtterman for Katie Couric. It was an ego thing.

He saves his real venom for the media. This is totally in keeping with the way he has been doing the show.

And Stewart was right, Tucker Carlson IS a dick. Carlson went on Kurtz's CNN show Reliable Sources, and Howard all but laughed out loud at him.

Obama is going on Leno, he should be going on The Daily Show.

towniebastard said...

And I'm not even saying the criticism I have there is spot on, to be honest. But I still think there are people out there who can make legitimate comments about the show and how Stewart runs it. You know, people who aren't idiots. And given the way NBC has been run for years, Zucker is clearly a big one.

And yes, Carlson is a dick. When Stewart said that, it was like a bright, shinning moment of clarity. Where all of America went, "Jesus, he's right. That man is clearly a dick. Why are we listening to him?"

Obama is going on Leno because he has the highest ratings. And it's not like Leno is going to throw anything hard at him.

Winston Smith said...

Stewart is not infallible, of course; but he's as good as we're going to get for the bizarre times we're living through.

The nightly news is often so surreal that straightforward journalism just cannot capture the lunacy that needs to be reported.

Stewart could have eviscerated Cramer in the same way he crushed Carlson, but he pulled back near the end of the interview. I think Stewart has a good sense of how much rage the public can stomach in a single media dose.

It's actually more responsible to intersperse a puff piece and go for a cheap laugh (and let everyone just breathe for a minute) than to do a Lou Dobbs and launch endless barrages of rage grenades at viewers.