Jon Stewart

Turkey Creek, Mississippi: Saved By the Birds

Jon Stewart’s skewering of the many Nazi accusations and hypocrisy on Fox News will probably get the lion’s share of today’s attention in the blogosphere.  But Wyatt Cenac’s piece of the people, descendants of slaves, in Turkey Creek, Miss. and the patronizing Audubon Society is hilarious.

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Jon Stewart on Rachel Maddow Show

Jon Stewart tells Rachel Maddow what’s wrong with the media.  But as usual, he focuses only on cable TV news.  That’s understandable.  If you’re a TV comic, it’s much harder to lambast the print media.  But I wish he’d find a way because I think the print media watches him and thinks, “We’ll he may be the most prominent media critic in the country—by far.  But he’s talking about those TV guys, not us.” 

Which is a shame because I think his criticism about the shallowness and fixation on conflict of cable TV news also pertains to the print media.

Jon Stewart, Terry Gross

From Jon Stewart’s interview with Terry Gross:

I’m less upset with politicians than [with] the media. I feel like politicians — the way I explain it, is when you go to a zoo and a monkey throws feces, it’s a monkey. But when the zookeeper is standing right there and he doesn’t say, ‘Bad monkey’ — somebody’s gotta be the zookeeper. I feel much more strongly about the abdication of responsibility by the media than by political advocates. They’re representing a constituency. Our culture is just a series of checks and balances. The whole idea that we’re in a battle between tyranny and freedom — it’s a series of pendulum swings. And the swings have become less drastic over time. That’s why I feel, not sanguine but at least a little bit less frightful, in that our pendulum swings have become less and less. But what has changed is the media’s sense of their ability to be responsible arbiters. I think they feel fearful. I think there’s this whole idea now that there’s a liberal media conspiracy, and I think they feel if they express any authority or judgment, which is what I imagine is editorial control, they will be vilified."

Daily Show, The National Ombudsman

Here’s a story that supports the thrust of my previous post.  Listening to the producers and writers of “The Daily Show” describe their mission and how they hold themselves accountable makes you wonder why real news organizations can’t do this.

"I feel like there are lot of critics of the government but there are very few critics of the media who have an audience and are credible and keep a watch on things," said "Daily Show" writer Elliott Kalan. "That’s a role that we provide that we take very seriously."

And they try to be funny and accurate.

One of the show’s rules is to not trust any source too much until it’s been confirmed by another source. The show’s 11 writers and eight producers — who range in age from their early 20s to mid 40s and four of whom are women — say they often check The New York Times and other newspapers to verify the facts and figures they hear on TV or read about on blogs. They also have a researcher and fact-checker, Adam Chodikoff, who makes sure any information that’s used has been verified by multiple sources.

"We work very hard to make sure that we don’t take anything out of context," King explained, "just because we like to think at the end of the day that what we’re doing is right and correct, but also because while the networks don’t respond to us all that much, people attack us and criticize us and we don’t want to give them ammunition than they need."

Daily Show producers have their sights set on my pet peeve.

Too often, King said, journalists’ political coverage — and that of media critics — ends up being sanitized and nothing but a perfunctory he said/she said exchange. "If you were going to talk about whether the earth is flat, and 99 percent of scientists are saying it’s round, and 1 percent are saying it’s flat, you wouldn’t bring on the 1 percent guy," he said. "That viewpoint is factually inaccurate and they shouldn’t bring him on just to give the illusion of balance."

When both sides are represented, writer Elliott Kalan said, there needs to be more fact-checking and deeper questioning: "A senator or governor will be on the news and will say something completely biased, and newscasters won’t call them on it. They should be checking these people. Instead they don’t want to alienate them and they let them say whatever they want."

He argued that the news media — and political commentators — need to look more critically at both sides of an issue, and spend more time breaking down complicated talking points for news consumers. Too often, Kalan said, journalists adhere to neutrality to the point where it paralyzes their ability to ask tough questions and undermines the power of objective, informed opinion.

Stewart is Indispensible

The main man of mainstream media, Brian Williams, claims that Jon Stewart has changed MSM.

The old arc of a news story went like this: News happens. Media cover news. Audience reacts, then turns in for the night. For the past several years, however, there’s been another step added to the end of the process: being held to account for our faults by a comedy show with a sharp eye and a sharp tongue. How did we live without it?

His latest – an interview with Lou Dobbs – was wonderful, especially if you watch the entire interview, only a portion of which appeared on TV.  Stewart is not only funny.  He is smart and articulate.  Dobbs can’t keep up.  I doubt few media mavens could.

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