Chronicling Jon Stewart's role in drawing national attention to the stalled bill granting health care for 9/11 first responders, the New York Times' Bill Carter and Brian Stelter suggest that the Daily Show host could be "the modern-day equivalent of Edward R. Murrow." They say Stewart single-handedly "turned the momentum around" on the once-doomed legislation much in the same way that "Edward R. Murrow turned public opinion against the excesses of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s." Are they right? Here's what media-watchers are saying about the comparison and what it reveals about today's media.
- Shows Failure of Mainstream Media Former ABC News producer and 9/11 first responder Eric Ortner told the New York Times he was upset with former TV news colleagues for ignoring the story. "In just nine months' time, my skilled colleagues will be jockeying to outdo one another on 10th anniversary coverage [of Sept. 11]. ... It's when the press was needed most, when sunlight truly could disinfect," that networks such as ABC News ignored the story.
- 'Brain Waste' From NYT's Craziest Source The New York Observer's Kat Stoeffel points out that the Times' primary source for legitimizing their Stewart-Murrow comparison is "the Times' favorite source, Syracuse Professor of Television or (depending on the story) Pop Culture Walter J. Thompson." Stoeffel calls him the "Spaghetti Taco Prof" because, of the 150 New York Times articles that have quoted him, one had him calling spaghetti tacos "a very important technological development." She suggests, "the way the Stewart-Murrow piece reads, this whole blasphemous debate was his idea in the first place."
- 3 Theories on Stewart's Influence The Moderate Voice's Joe Gandelman posits, "Some will say it's the times: a lot of young people find news shows boring and get their info from a show such as Stewarts. Some will say it's due to his talent: going back to the time of Will Rogers there have been entertainers whose comments on politics got people not just laughing but thinking. And some (such as yours truly) will argue it is also due to the battered mainstream media" losing credibility.
- Jon Stewart Practices Activism, Not Journalism Outside the Beltway's Doug Mataconis takes issue with Stewart's coverage of the bill, which Mataconis says was reductive and misleading. Mataconis has "serious questions" about the bill but, "given the emotionalism of the Stewart argument, that just makes someone [who raises those questions] sound like a heartless bastard. That's not journalism, it's activism. I happen to be a huge Daily Show/Colbert Report fan, but when people start mistaking what they do for serious journalism, we’ve got a problem."
- Will Stewart's Activism Ruin His Comedy? Mediaite's Jon Bershad points out that Stewart "has directed his entire staff not to even comment on the now-famous, relatively joke-free episode dedicated to the bill. Perhaps he's just humble. More likely, he realizes that all the attention will kill the Daily Show’s joke. Heroic social crusaders are just less funny. I mean, how many times did you laugh at Good Night and Good Luck?"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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