November 4, 2002

Jon Stewart, press critic…

Jon Stewart, the “anchor” for The Daily Show on Comedy Central, knows a thing or two about real TV journalists (and, I suspect, like me, he considers that job title a bit of an oxymoron). He appeared on CNN’s Reliable Sources and demonstrated how satire can be an effective rhetorical and critical technique. And that means, necessarily, that entertainment of a certain kind can play an effective and responsible role in civic discourse. Good satire, however, is not the kind of common denominator schlock Stewart decries here–joking with host Howard Kurtz about who between them is the real journalist:

STEWART: Well, yes, you could host “CROSSFIRE.” What’s that got to do with journalism? I mean, that’s just a couple of knuckleheads. I mean, the promo for that is Bob Novak in a boxing outfit. I mean, for God’s sakes, somehow I don’t imagine Edward R. Murrow ever putting on the satin robe and going, “I’ll destroy you.”

Stewart’s making biting jokes about political coverage is entertainment with a message (perhaps because I like the message). Robert Novak in a boxing outfit is simply embarassing. Worse, such stunts suggest a lack of seriousness unbecoming to a news organization.

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