Saturday, March 14, 2009

Journalism 101

It may have been the very best 24 minutes of television I have ever seen.

On Thursday March 12, 2009, a comedian proved to be the absolute best investigative reporter in America. Well, that might have been the easy part because what he actually proved was that he is THE ONLY investigative reporter in America.

For several nights this past week, the main stream media has been called on the carpet by the less than main stream media, namely The Daily Show, for their complete lack of credible coverage of what has turned into the greatest financial disaster of generations. The host of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart, showed clip after clip from CNBC and their myriad of shows whose hosts / reporters / commentators were proven to not only be wrong, but to be completely oblivious about the risks and pending collapse of the financial world. On Thursday night, Stewart finally got one of the CNBC bozos on his show.

Jim Cramer from CNBC's Mad Money had been a frequent target of Stewart's over the previous several nights and had been shown in various clips encouraging his viewers to buy stocks that then tanked. The clips were juxtaposed with simple black and white text that then detailed exactly what happened to the stocks he was hocking. Simple. Effective. It left little doubt that a man of Stewart's caliber should be taken lightly.

On the show Thursday, Cramer was reduced to a fool and hack who not only missed the signs of impending doom, but actually knew the game being played and encouraged people to continue to invest their hard-earned money into banks and investment companies who could not possibly continue in their march forward. Several clips of Cramer speaking to another man about how to manipulate stock prices and whip up speculation were shown, much to Mr. Cramer's dismay. He was seen and heard on one saying, “I'd never say this on television”, implying that he wanted his TRUE nature and thoughts kept from the public. He became red and very uncomfortable after being exposed for who he really is.

Time after time, Cramer and the Daily Show audience and viewers were shown proof of his own inside knowledge of the gaming of the system. It was right there on video for all to see and appreciate. Stewart managed to get Cramer on one video basically admitting to committing fraud while running a hedge fund. It was a thing of beauty.

Now the whole premise was not to go after Cramer personally. Stewart's point was that CNBC had done a very poor job of reporting, and that, in fact, they had more or less been a cheerleader for the same financial system that has now reduced the retirement savings of most Americans by nearly half. His questions to Cramer were mostly in the vein of “where were you?” and “why didn't you tell people what you knew?” about what was going on. He actually held Cramer's feet to the fire and made him squirm on national television.

What does this say about America as a nation? Why is it that the single best piece of investigative reporting on the economic disaster occurring right now has come from Comedy Central? We should all be disgusted with where we are as a nation. Where is our fourth estate when the only reporting I trust on television comes from a comedy news show?

Hey main stream media people – were you paying attention? Did you learn anything Thursday night? Like maybe, HOW TO DO YOUR JOBS? What the hell have you folks been doing over the last 10 years? You who work in the news media should all be ashamed and hang your heads today – and for many days. You have been shown to be inconsequential and soft by a guy who makes “fart noises” for a living.

Perhaps those in the main stream media will go back and watch that tape from Thursday night and learn just how a professional reporter operates. It should become mandatory viewing from now on in all journalism classes as well. Perhaps we can expect more from our next generation of journalists than what we have today. Maybe someday soon, the spirit of Edward R. Morrow won't have to be invoked by a comedian.


  1. It was a great interview by Stewart. Wouldn't it be great to see him go after some prominent politicians that way. Doubt they'd sit in the chair for that. Even with the beating that Cramer took, at least he was willing to attempt to answer the questions that Stewart had for him. Today I saw that an NBC exec complained about Stewart's questioning. Maybe a more appropriate response would have been to do something that Stewart suggested, that being to fix the programming on CNBC so that it is accurate and no longer cradles the execs it interviews on it's shows.

  2. Joe -

    That would be nice -seeing decent reporting done with integrity......but I won't hold my breath.

    The media outlets like NBC, CBS, FOX, ABC and all their cable brethren are all owned by conglomerates with much to lose. They have conflicts of interest that will always exist between their news divisions and their corporate overseers.

    "News" has become ubiquitous in today's world, but (at least in the US) it is more "info-tainment" than real reporting. That was Stewart's point - to shed some light on that fact because most Americans are blissfully ignorant.