Saturday, March 14, 2009


Phil Bronstein, former executive editor of the SF Chronicle and now vice-president and Editor-at-large, weighs in on the Stewart-Cramer inquisition (see my previous post, below). He writes that Stewart is no Edward R. Murrow (to whom The Atlantic's James Fallows had compared him).

From the post:

I didn't know Edward R. Murrow. I didn't serve with Edward R. Murrow. Edward R. Murrow was not a friend of mine. But I do know that Jon Stewart is not Edward R. Murrow. But neither is he Carrot Top. He is more like Jonathan Swift, the brilliant 17th/18th century satirist and author of "Gulliver's Travels." Only Mr. Stewart uses all sorts of contemporary visual and electronic tricks to enhance the effect.

I think Fallows might have been conflating Murrow, whose courageous and probing reporting and broadcasting stemmed the ferocious bullying by Senator Joe McCarthy, and Boston lawyer Joseph Welch, who famously asked the anti-commie crusader during a hearing, "Have you no sense of decency, sir?"

Jon Stewart did both: he pressed Cramer, using the CNBC host's own video interviews to trap him (just like Tim Russert used to do), and then relentlessly called him out on the contradictions. The full quote from 1954 was: "Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness... You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"

That's pretty much what Jon Stewart said to Jim Cramer, only it took him longer.

Joe Garofoli, the Chron's media critic, also chimed in. He writes:

Stewart regularly uses the steady stream of overheated, underreported stories coming from the 24-hour cable news networks as comedic fodder. But Thursday's interview was another example of the passion for good governance and aggressive journalism that informs his satire. In 2004, he went on CNN's "Crossfire" and told the hosts that they were "hurting America" with hackneyed, partisan banter, which he found long on opinion and short on reporting. Three months later, when CNN canceled the program, network president Jonathan Klein said, "I agree wholeheartedly with Jon Stewart's overall premise."

Last summer at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Stewart gathered a dozen national political reporters for breakfast. He scolded them for letting the 24-hour cable networks set the nation's political agenda and for being so cuddly with the people they cover. Rosenstiel said Stewart helped reshape the opinion of the Iraq war (through his ongoing segment dubbed "Mess O'Potamia") and helped highlight the foibles of the Bush presidency.

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