Bill Doskoch: Media, BPS*, Film, Minutiae

Curated knowledge, trenchant insights & witty bon mots

Enough with the ‘Jon Stewart/most trusted newscaster’ meme!!!

I can’t believe people who have more than a high-school education are citing some crappy Time.com online poll as evidence that Daily Show host Jon Stewart is now the most trusted newscaster in America.

The most prominent member of this Hall of Shame? Don Tapscott.

Here’s his Twitter bio: “Author, Consulting Company CEO, Hammond B3 player in rock band, striving to live a principled life of consequence”

Here’s his tweet on Jonno:

The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart is the nation’s most trustworthy news person? No surprise there. http://tinyurl.com/nckkxq

This made me cranky. My retort:

@dtapscott Good Lord: Why on earth would you give any quantitative credence to a stastically-invalid online poll?!?!

Seriously. Online polls are not useful samples of public opinion. The most you can say about them is that X per cent of the respondents say Jon Stewart is the most trusted newscaster in America.

But you might as well go into a truck stop diner, ask people whether they think Jonno is the MTNIA, and then only count the opinions of people who actually want to vote.

It’s stupid. The only thing that would make it stupider would be to give cellphones or BlackBerrys to Stewart fans in the diner and ask them if they want to call their friends and get them to vote in the poll too!

I don’t know for a fact that there was any campaign to vote Stewart, but I do know for a fact that online “polls” are stackable. I also know for a fact that interest groups will do viral emails encouraging their fellow travellers to vote in a given poll.

┬áThose groups will then triumphantly hold up the results and say, ‘This is what the public thinks!’ Pulleeze.

Here’s the actual “poll.” The question is, ‘Now that Walter Cronkite has passed on, who is America’s most trusted newscaster?’ Here are the support levels:

  • Stewart, Comedy Central – 44 per cent
  • Brian Williams, NBC – 29 per cent
  • Charles Gibson, ABC – 19 per cent
  • Katie Couric, CBS – 7 per cent

Now, did anyone saying this proved anything notice the fine print on the bottom?

Note: Poll results are not scientifically valid and reflect the opinions of only those users who chose to participate. Poll results are not reflected in real time.
I wonder if Tapscott’s next book will be Grown Up Numerate.

A final word on Stewart: I like him. I watch his show almost nightly. Sometimes he’s a brilliant satirist. Sometimes he picks up on angles that that the MSM misses.

After one particularly puffball interview with (I believe) then-GOP Sen. Rick Santorum a few years ago, he said on air that his audience had told him what they thought of his performance that night: “It s-u-u-c-k-ed!” He earned a lot of cred with me that night.

But he’s primarily in the business to entertain, not inform. If you relied solely on The Daily Show for “news,” you would be a less informed person for it.

And so far as “trusted” goes, I’ll trust him more when I see him say point-blank to a Hollywood guest, “Your movie sucks.”

Sat, July 25 2009 » Main Page, Media