The big Steward-Cramer faceoff was funny and it made good television. But what’s striking about it is that basically Jim Cramer had nothing to say on his own behalf and then at the end of the day that’s not going to make any difference. People talk about how sad it is that you need to turn to Comedy Central to get real journalism. And it really is sad because Comedy Central just can’t do what journalism is supposed to do, and it can’t do the things that make a difference.
It’s worth thinking a bit about the General Electric Corporations news media properties more generally. They hired Phil Donahue, and then fired him when he had the highest ratings on the network because they didn’t like that he was against invading Iraq. They hired Keith Olbermann, expecting him to not be a liberal. But he turned out to be pretty progressive. And that turned out to be pretty popular. So they started featuring him more. Which prompted a huge freakout from their big news stars like Tom Brokaw about how it was injuring their credibility to appear on a network that’s cobranded with a network that features a liberal. Meanwhile, at their other cobranded network, CNBC, they have on air a bunch of frauds. People show up and pretend to have sage investment advice. Larry Kudlow is put forward as someone who’s knowledgeable about economic policy. And when someone points the fraud out, the whole GE team circles the wagons to defend Jim Cramer and CNBC. Liberals? That wrecks their credibility. Liars and frauds? That’s great. Go peacock! It’s a deep rot, and John Stewart satirizing it doesn’t really change anything. It would require the people working at NBC News to develop a conscience.
Meanwhile, Eric Alterman and Danielle Ivory did a good column for CAP on how increasingly “business news” doesn’t report news about business so much as it does advocacy for investor class interests.