What does it say about the state of our current news media when the most anticipated and insightful news coverage and analysis of the week is coming from a fake news show? Really… watch the whole thing.
The subject matter aside, what I find most instructive here is the way Jon Stewart’s total lack of pretense and decorum results in one of the most brutally honest interviews you will ever have the privilege of watching on TV. Unfettered by the journalistic shackles of objectivity and fairness (and even free to employ—gasp—foul language when appropriate), Stewart manages to level a devastating critique of the financial news industry, while demonstrating by example the sort of pander-free directness that is too often missing from traditional coverage.
At one point Stewart rails against “the gap between what CNBC advertises itself as, and what it is,” telling Jim Cramer, “Look, we’re both snake oil salesmen to a certain extent, but we do label the show as snake oil here…” a critique that mirrors some of my own complaints about our local news media. After years of newsroom cutbacks, the all important space between stenography and opinion has shrunk to the point where news-papers are fast becoming neither, and yet when you hear many of the legacy journalists talk about their own sacred role in our democracy versus that of the barbarian bloggers at the gate, you’d think that nothing has changed but the business model.
But it is not just the Internet or the economy that is driving down both subscription and ad revenues; it is the product itself. Publishers like to console themselves by pointing to their rising online readership, but, well, you get what you pay for… which may help explain why so many readers today prefer to get their news for free.