Who Do We Hold to What Standard

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

People are very passionate in their opinions about whether or not The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is "news." Most explain this opinion is because the show doesn't present equal sides of the issues as journalism should. The problem I have, is that the media itself has labeled show as "news", which is something that Stewart never claimed the show to be. Per the show's website, it is intended to be a nightly half-hour series "unburdened by objectivity, journalistic integrity or even accuracy". With that in mind, should the public hold Jon Stewart, who has no degree in journalism, political science, or communications, to the same standard as we hold other commentators who hold those titles and assume that responsibility?

Bernard Goldberg believes so. On April 15th, Stewart aired a clip of Goldberg and several other commentators from Fox News complaining about the media generalizing the Tea Party based on the actions of a few individuals. Stewart agreed that the media had done so, but then pointed out that Fox News in particular was guilty of the same generalizations against liberals. He proved his point by airing several clips of Goldberg along with Bill O'Reilly and others making generalized statements that portrayed liberals in a negative light. Goldberg responded to this by appearing on O'Reilly's Fox News program and agreeing that Stewart had a point, but he went on to say that Stewart himself had failed as a news reporter and social commentator because he did not treat liberal guests as roughly as conservative ones.

But if clearly you want to be a social commentator, more than just a comedian and if you want to be a good one, you better find some guts because even though you criticize liberals as well as conservatives, congratulations on that, when you had Frank Rich on your show, who generalizes all the time about conservatives and Republicans being bigots, you didn’t ask him a single tough question. You gave him a lap dance. You practically had your tongue down his throat.."

Stewart addressed the critisism on his show April 20th. He pulled together the entire clip of Goldberg and his comments, pausing inbetween to offer challenge points and elaborate a few of his own points.

There was one in particular where Goldberg claims that Stewart isn't as edgy as he thinks he is. "You're just a safe Jay Leno, with smaller audience, but you get to say the F-bomb, which gives your incredibly unsophisticated audience the illusion that you're courageous and you're renegade, but it's only an illusion."

Stewart responded with mock horror, exclaiming "Wait, Wait... I'm not a courageous renegade? But I've always considered myself the Lorenzo Lamas of late night." Stewart continued, explaining that he never labeled his show as edgy, or claimed to be renegade. He accused Goldberg of trying to hold his show to the standard proclaimed by the Fox News tagline "always fair and balanced."
"You can’t criticize me for not being ‘fair and balanced.’ That’s your slogan. Which by the way, you never follow..."

Stewart ended the segment with a gospel style skit in which explained that, even in his personal beliefs, he is not perpetually on one side or the other. He closed by calling Fox News the "lupus of news" and offered the same insult he had given to them in the clip on April 15th. "Fox News, as long as fair and balanced is how you sell yourselves, Go F*** yourself," to which the audicence clapped and cheered and the choir behind Stewart broke out into a gospel style chorus of the insult.

The whole clip was amusing to me on many levels from both sides, but what struck me was how Stewart is constantly being portrayed as a journalist, which he is not. Fox News has been critisized by not only Stewart, but other sources (News Hounds and FAIR for example) for being biased in its commentary. Fox News responds not by changing the way it portrays news, but by hurling back superfulous accusations against the accusers, and calling them what appears to be their favorite insult: liberals.

For consumers of media, what does this approach provide to us? From either side, whether you choose to watch Stewart and his openly comedic biased social commentary, Fox News with its right-wing tilt to everything, or another source, if the journalism being provided by our largest news corporations isn't accurately giving us the facts, how can we make informed decisions on all the issues that affect us?

For me, when I watch Stewart, I am fully aware that I'm getting his opinion with the jokes. I completely understand that he might be a little biased, and he can be, because he's never claimed to be a journalist and I don't hold him to those standards. But Goldberg and others are journalists, and there is no warning on Fox News that states "the opinions expressed on this channel may not portray all accurate portions of the story." Which, in my opinion, means Fox News is selling me a false product.


Tyler Lloyd April 21, 2010 at 8:32 PM  

Yes it is biased and it is all about comedy, but you can learn about current events and happenings in politics and news from this show. The main intent may not be to inform people but the show does that in its attempt to be funny and I believe that if you can learn about current happenings then it is news.

Courtney Glienke April 27, 2010 at 1:15 PM  

Stewart is definitely all about the comedy, and not the journalism. I agree with Tyler that yes, you can learn about current events through watching his show, but like anything it's best to go to more than one source to get the facts straight. Once you know all sides, then you are a well-informed media consumer.

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