Friday, March 13, 2009

So Just What Is the Media's Role?

I watched the Stewart vs. Cramer Daily Show last night. I'm sure it was a mighty audience. Many of them were disappointed. It wasn't all that funny. It was, instead, another battle in Jon Stewart's crusade to get the media to do its job.

It's the underlying message of his show every single day, yet many viewers probably lose that message because basically, it's just funny.

Stewart's serious. He always has been. When he took on Tucker Carlson and CNN's "Crossfire" he was practically pleading. He wants news. He wants the media to do what we used to believe it does - objectively report the news, investigate what it's told and let us know what is true and what isn't.

Instead, what we have is an alphabet of talking heads all spouting their own view of things and we tune into whoever says what we like to hear. I know it. I know that when I watch Rachel Maddow she's preaching to the choir. I watch Lou Dobbs and want to throw socks at the television. I watch Fox News and wonder if perhaps I have a high blood pressure problem.

So, Stewart asks, where are the watchdogs?

CNBC is the NBC financial network. It has the supposed experts who offer advice to investors. And that's the bottom line, according to Stewart. Who are they talking to?

Is CNBC there to benefit the investor insiders, winking and touching fingers beside their noses as they share information based on lies that influence how the poor schmucks at home invest their money? Is CNBC there to offer the best advice it can to all investors? Is CNBC a watchdog inside the guarded gates? CNBC doesn't really know, according to Jim Cramer.

Cramer admitted the network could have done a better job investigating what it was told, could have been more careful about the advice it offered. Cramer sounded almost contrite when confronted with an interview in which he reveals the depth of his understanding of how to manipulate the market.

The whole confrontation was certainly great press for Cramer. How many people will now watching his show to see if he makes good on his promise to become a better watchdog for the public? But can you trust a thing CNBC does? Why should you?

And that, I'm betting, makes Jon Stewart a very sad funny man.

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