March 12, 2009

Apocalypse Now

Two stories deserve your attention today:

As Cities Go From Two Papers to One, Talk of Zero

CNBC’s Cramer to spar with Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart is, according to former students in my media ethics class, a “medialitical infotainer,” i.e. someone who uses satire to deliver entertaining analysis of media and politics. I think that’s an accurate term. I have claimed that Stewart offers the best media criticism on television. His recent, and continued, take-down of CNBC points out things that should trouble us about the current state of journalism as delivered by cable TV.

Stewart is also doing an important job that journalism has completely abandoned: Keeping tabs on the ethical standards of news organizations. The irony, of course, is that a medialitical infotainer operates with an entirely different set of ethical standards compared to journalism. So while Stewart’s analyses are as cogent as they are biting and funny, he might not be commanding the kind of attention and respect that, say, The New York Times would command if it covered the very legitimate story of the excesses at CNBC.

News organizations should be covering the ethical and professional transgressions of other news organizations as a beat, as a routine part of news gathering.

But they don’t. They leave that job to the easily-dismissed, e.g. bloggers and ranters of widely varying talents and intents. Hmmmmm… Except for Stewart. He’s of a different kind. And tonight we might get to see just how seriously the media world takes him (which will depend partly on what he decides to do or how seriously he decides to take this) .

But remember, last night Stewart cautioned that tonight’s climax of the “War Of Words” is likely to disappoint.

Thanks for the dose of reality, Jon. Thanks for the reminder that it isn’t your responsibility to do the job that journalism should be doing for itself.

One Response

  1. Laura 

    I’ve been following this Jon Stewart thing with some interest. I agree that his critique of CNBC has been absolutely devastating and I find it fascinating that CNBC feels the need to defend itself (rather than, you know, change). I’ll be curious to see tonight’s show.