I don’t know what to think of Jon Stewart in his Daily Show persona. Does he pick fights for ratings, because he’s a genuine warrior on the battlefield of public discourse, or a bit of both?
This April 24 NYT article talks about his current head-butting with Fox News:
It is true that the often-left-leaning “Daily Show” deals with a wide array of topics, but Fox is one that Mr. Stewart is overtly passionate about; he said on the show this week that he criticizes the network a lot because it is “truly a terrible, cynical, disingenuous news organization.”
According to “The Daily Show” Web site, thedailyshow.com, Fox News has been a subject of 24 segments so far this year, including eight in the month of April. The lower-rated news channel CNN, by contrast, has been a subject of five segments this year.
In many of the segments, Mr. Stewart questions Fox’s journalistic practices. He noted that Fox had hired former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska to be a political analyst in a January segment he called “News of the Weird.” But he wasn’t laughing when he asserted that Fox is “functioning as her de-facto rapid response media arm, and they’re paying her for the privilege of doing it.”
In February he noted that Fox News had stopped showing President Obama’s widely praised meeting with Republican leaders while CNN and MSNBC had carried it start to finish. Mimicking a Fox anchor, Mr. Stewart said, “We’re gonna cut away because” — humorous pause — “this is against the narrative that we present.”
In March he ridiculed the news anchor Megyn Kelly for lining up guests who were opposed to the Democratic health care overhaul and citing polls that claimed the American people were opposed to it. Then he played a clip from October 2008, when Mr. Obama was leading in most polls, of Ms. Kelly’s saying “don’t trust the polls.”
In the past week and a half he found himself in a fight with Bernie Goldberg, the Fox News contributor, after suggesting that Mr. Goldberg and others were hypocritical for having bemoaned generalizations about the Tea Party while having demonized liberals.
As Fox’s ratings have surged, so too has the amount of criticism, particularly surrounding its combination of news programs and conservative opinion programs. Asked on Friday about Mr. Stewart’s criticism, a Fox spokeswoman, Loren Hynes, said the channel would pass on an opportunity to comment.
Mr. O’Reilly responded to Mr. Stewart on his Fox program on Wednesday, calling “The Daily Show” a “key component of left-wing television” and concluding: “Here, we have all kinds of views, all kinds of debates, and we’re not boring. That’s why Jon Stewart loves us, and, yes, needs us, especially Bernie Goldberg.”
I’ll bet Stewart does best in the ratings when he’s facing off against somebody or something. I think that’s in part because such duels bring out real passion in Stewart, which makes him a better satirist.
Remember Stewart vs. Cramer?
But I also think Stewart seriously cares about the quality of discourse. Remember his notorious appearance on CNN’s now-defunct Crossfire? (Lots of archival content if you search ‘Stewart Crossfire‘).
Back in 2004, I suggested Jonno should either poop or get off the pot with respects to being a journalist instead of a fake-journo comedian.
From the April 24 NYT story:
His staff members regularly dismiss claims that “The Daily Show” is a form of journalism. “I have not moved out of the comedian’s box into the news box,” Mr. Stewart said on the show on Tuesday, adding, “The news box is moving toward me.”
Fair and balanced. Not a journalist.