Boy is the media desperate to find someone worth admiring. Translation? Another feature about Jon Stewart.
The New York Times has devoted a lengthy article today to contemplating whether Jon Stewart is the new Walter Cronkite or Edward R. Murrow for his role in shining the national spotlight on the 9/11 First Responders Bill two weeks ago.
Though the scale of the impact of Mr. Stewart’s telecast on public policy may not measure up to the roles that Mr. Murrow and Mr. Cronkite played, Mr. Thompson [a professor of television at Syracuse University] said, the comparison is legitimate because the law almost surely would not have moved forward without him. “He so pithily articulated the argument that once it was made, it was really hard to do anything else,” Mr. Thompson said.
Cue the now-tired old question about why a comedy show is doing the job news organisations should be on top of. NBC’s Brian Williams, a frequent Daily Show guest, appears to think it has something to do with ratings? Or something to do with comedians being allowed to have opinions.
“Jon gets to decide the rules governing his own activism and the causes he supports,” Mr. Williams said, “and how often he does it — and his audience gets to decide if they like the serious Jon as much as they do the satirical Jon.”
So Brian Williams thinks the 9/11 First Responders Bill is a cause and not a news item? It’d be interesting to hear him try and make a real case for that, and probably go a long way to explaining the diminishing relevance of network news casts. That said, one suspects his remark may be as much sour grapes talking as anything; considering Williams was a volunteer fireman in New Jersey back in the day (something he’s spoken about with great pride), it’s hard not to conclude he is kicking himself for not beating Stewart to the punch and turning the First Responder into a weeklong Nightly News feature when he had the chance.
Regardless, Stewart apparently has no interest in all these iconic laurels. The Times reports he has refused to comment on the bill and instructed his staff to do the same. And for good reason. “Advocacy satire” probably has a rather short shelf life…as far as television shows go, anyway.
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