Read Part One of this story.
Since I posted the first part of this overly-long and ponderous piece about Jon Stewart's breakfast with the inner circle of print journalism, a number of the people in attendance have written their own accounts of the "informal" get-together.
The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz — whom I can only assume attended a different breakfast with Jon Stewart yesterday morning at the same time — walked away with the idea that Stewart is full of criticism for cable news and thinks newspaper reporters are just super keen. In his story — which he titled "Jon Stewart Takes Aim At 24-Hour Cable News 'Beast'" — he writes…
Jon Stewart ripped the cable news networks Monday as a "brutish, slow-witted beast" and castigated Fox News in particular as "an appendage of the Republican Party"… Stewart included CNN and MSNBC in a far-ranging indictment of what he called "that false sense of urgency they create, the sense that everything is breaking news… The 24-hour networks are now driving the narratives and everyone else is playing catch-up."
Stewart, who is doing his nightly show from both conventions, declared his love for newspapers as a better source of political coverage but said they are fighting "a losing battle because they're getting overshadowed."
The Wall Street Journal's Amy Chozick's breakfast with Stewart seems to me to be a lot more similar to the one I witnessed…
Comedian Jon Stewart had some very unfunny words for the media on Monday, calling cable news networks "a giant monster" and urging newspaper reporters not to fall prey to the 24-hour news cycle.
He urged the print media not to buy into television and campaign spin and to dig deep into stories, even if it means burning bridges with sources and not giving readers exactly what they want. "I think my audience would like to see a naked woman smoking crack… but you've got to draw the line," he said.
It is true that Stewart plowed into cable news. He called Fox News' fake news coverage a "the biggest 'fuck you' to people with brains." But he also said that Fox does the best job of all the cable news networks, because "they have an idea," an agenda, something through which to filter their information. Plus, they give their reporters "cover." Their reporters are free to write their stories as they've been told to write them, without fear of reprisal, because the network makes sure that it's the entity that takes the brunt of the fallout. On the other hand, his view of CNN seems to be a network just bouncing around, following the media cycle, trying to keep up with whatever the big story and the big angle is.
And while he did claim that the 24-hour news channels are ruining political discourse, he did not "declare his love" for newspapers. Not exactly. He did have a lot of great things to say about newspapers and for the reporters sitting around the table before him. But they were definitely not let off the hook.
"I can't believe that, as reporters, you would walk into a 'spin room'," he said, amazed at the journalists' willingness to swallow the bullshit that the campaign and candidates spoon feed them. "How can you keep talking to people who are lying to you?" he asked. "This loveless marriage [between reporters and politicians] has to be unconsummated."
As I said in yesterday's post, this criticism came pretty much at their request, after they wide-eyedly asked Stewart — who, by the way, is a comedian, in case you weren't aware — what could be done to restore print journalism to its former place as the apex of political discourse.
"The antidote," Stewart responded, "is to push back. The antidote is to create filters" to remove the muck from the information fish tank, so we can clearly see what's truth and what's political spin. Take the ball away from the cable news networks and do what they're being paid to do. "You're not on anyone's team. You're on our team, clearing our tanks."
And these incredibly respected reporters — these paragons of print journalism — scribbled down Jon's responses (which very closely resemble things he's said a million times before), asked more questions with obvious answers, laughed at his many jokes, and would eventually go back to their hotel rooms to write parse out his funniest one-liners and write stories about how newspapers are great and cable news can suck it.
But not before pushing back a bit against Stewart's assessments (and, at one point, pushing the limits on what rational people would consider absurdity).
Part three, I swear to God, will be the final part. (I think.)
Tags: Democratic National Convention, Jon Stewart, The Daily Show