Saturday, March 14, 2009

That's Not the Way It's Supposed To Be

I'm sure mostly everyone has seen The Daily Show's interview of Jim Cramer by Jon Stewart by now, which had been hyped for some time and has been the "talk of the town" afterward.

As many people have noted, it was not at all what I expected. Based upon the build-up, I thought I might be a little like the Stewart-Colbert-Conan showdown from last year, with Cramer & Stewart tussling a little bit and then kissing & making up. Instead, it was a seriously pointed indictment of the genre, where the Cramers acted as cheerleaders for the market rather than providing the public an informative, watchdog role of Wall Street.

Here's the full interview:



The uncut version of the Cramer interview is a must see (rather than the Show's cut down version). Unfortunately, this interview may well be "Exhibit A" as to why journalism is fairing so poorly (even before the economic downturn). It takes a "comedian" like Jon Stewart to do the work of journalists -- print or otherwise. Newspapers have become scriveners, reprinting press releases, rather than providing independent reporting (calling out the prevaricators). And TV news? Pure entertainment. Not much difference between Meet the Press and Entertainment Tonight, other than the fact that one deals with Hollywood and the other DC.

Glenn Greenwald likewise remarks upon the fallacy of the financial reporting programs (which applies to straight reporting as well -- a la the lack of critical reporting in the run up to the War). When Cramer tries to justify his bad calls, saying he was misled by the CEOs of the companies, Stewart calls him on it, There's nothing unique about Jim Cramer:

That's the heart of the (completely justifiable) attack on Cramer and CNBC by Stewart. They would continuously put scheming CEOs on their shows, conduct completely uncritical "interviews" and allow them to spout wholesale falsehoods. And now that they're being called upon to explain why they did this, their excuse is: Well, we were lied to. What could we have done? And the obvious answer, which Stewart repeatedly expressed, is that people who claim to be "reporters" are obligated not only to provide a forum for powerful people to make claims, but also to then investigate those claims and then to inform the public if the claims are true. That's about as basic as it gets.
As the LATimes observes in its aptly captioned piece, Jon Stewart can be funny -- until he's interviewing you:
Forgoing his typically caustic humor, a serious and at times angry Stewart eviscerated Cramer for jocularly discussing how to manipulate the stock market and slammed CNBC as an ineffective watchdog of Wall Street.

In the process, the host of "The Daily Show" provided one of those memorable television moments that distill the public mood -- in this case, angst about the economy's swift decline. Stewart also displayed the tough interviewing skills that belie his insistence that he's merely an entertainer.
* * * *
The much-hyped showdown between the two men grew out of a bit last week on "The Daily Show" in which Stewart satirized CNBC's coverage of the market as overly credulous. But by the end of Cramer's appearance on the late-night program Thursday, the episode was being cast as a triumph for Stewart and a public relations disaster for CNBC, which airs Cramer's show, "Mad Money."

James Fallows of the Atlantic declared that Stewart "has become Edward R. Murrow," while Rick Aristotle Munarriz of the investor website the Motley Fool concluded that "financial journalism's biggest celebrity looked defeated." Stewart even got a shout-out from White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, who praised him for asking "a lot of tough questions."

" 'The Daily Show' has delivered a reminder of the need for independent-minded journalism -- and in the process rendered CNBC a laughingstock to many casual viewers that might not have afforded the channel much thought previously," Brian Lowry wrote on Variety.com.
Stewart was certainly on target, as the Times noted:
Stewart, who pressed Cramer about comments he made during a 2006 interview with TheStreet .com in which he casually discussed how to manipulate stock prices.

"I understand you want to make finance entertaining," the comedian said. "But it's not a . . . game. And when I watch that, I can't tell you how angry that makes me."

Stewart acknowledged that his ire was aimed more broadly at CNBC and the financial press in general for not alerting the public to the market's highly leveraged structure.

"To pretend that this was some sort of crazy once-in-a-lifetime tsunami that nobody could have seen coming is disingenuous at best and criminal at worst," he said.
My husband, who has always considered my devotion to Stewart/Colbert to be odd, watched the Cramer interview yesterday and admitted that he had a new admiration for Stewart, as an intelligent, serious, compassionate journalist.

And thanks to Andrew Sullivan, he can peruse some of Stewart's other rants on the media, The Accidental Activist:
Jon Stewart has, of course, been on the warpath with his fellow media stars for many years now. A reader offers some helpful links: the Crossfire showdown, the Blitzer take-down, the worst interview in Chris Matthews' life, and the sinking of Jonah's whale. Good times.
I guess it just confirms why Jon Stewart has been considered one of the most trusted names in journalism. See Who You Gonna Trust?. He's earned it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While I enjoy watching Cramer every night, one must remember the show is primarily entertainment. The financial networks exist to promote their advertisers financial and investment products. Who would expect them to warn about the credit bubble or coming Washington national debt collapse which will destroy much of the remaining private wealth in America today or what this will do to the dollar, the stock market, bonds, gold or the real estate market?


China is now worried about their dangerous over investment in US Treasury obligations. Washington ’s long-term choice is either repudiation or monetization. For monetization to be effective, the depreciation in the dollar would have to be substantial and this in turn would dramatically raise prices of imports for American consumers which would mean a tremendous drop in foreign imports. Debt monetization would cause more disruption to exporting nations than selective repudiation of Treasury debt.

The Campaign to Cancel the Washington National Debt By 12/22/2013 Constitutional Amendment is starting now in the U.S. See: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=67594690498&ref=ts

Thanks,

Ron with 30 plus years in the investment business and banking industry.