Thus Endeth the Lesson

In the TV news business, we’re supposed to ask questions and get answers.  Unfortunately because of the constraints of time and the lack of warm bodies in news operations these days, too many reporters end up with the news article that the folks on the desk clipped from the newspaper, and either with the shooter assigned to the story or in some cases  their own camera, head out the door.  It’s not unusual for some reporters to have written their stories before they walk out and just get soundbites to fill in the holes.  I’m also told by one friend still in the business that news managers in his shop won’t really even consider a story idea unless it’s appeared in the local newspaper.  I guess that way everyone can be sure its news.  The problem is, except in some rare cases, we really never get any real answers to any really pressing questions.  That in turn makes TV news less relevant, viewers turn away and managers huddle with consultants to figure out a gimmick to get viewers to tune in such as giveaways, there’s less time for relevant stories and the “graveyard spiral” continues.

Having said that, if someone wants to see one of the best if not THE best interviewer on television, then turn to…..wait for it….The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  JS has great technique and unlike many others on TV, he doesn’t let someone off the hook no matter how much they squirm.  He also has one of the best research staffs in the business.  I’d put them up against the staff of Meet the Press.  If some talking head has said something and then denies it, Stewart’s staff can find the video clip busting the talking head.

What brings this to my attention is the interview Stewart conducted this past Thursday night with CNBC’s Jim Cramer. (by the way, this is only part 1 of the unedited interview available on-line) There had been a lot of hype leading up to the appearance by Cramer because Stewart had been going after some of the “financial experts” who some feel should have seen some of the economic disaster coming.  They didn’t.  In fact some appeared to be promoting some of the firms until just before they crashed.   I wasn’t sure what to expect when Stewart started the interview but it became very clear very quickly that JS was not joking around.  He held Cramer’s feet to the fire for the entire show and JS was asking some tough questions along with tough follow-ups.  It was great television.  The interview should be shown in every television newsroom and every college journalism classroom.  It may not put everyone back “on the path” but it may remind some why they got into the business in the first place.  Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming….

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5 Comments on “Thus Endeth the Lesson”

  1. the tall tv guy Says:

    I taped that interview from last week but haven’t watched it yet. I didn’t know Jon Stewart was more than a comedian on a news type show. With the way Jim Cramer rants and raves on his show, who would take him seriously?

    This last election I really missed Tim Russert. He was very professional and consistent in how he treated his guests. There was no bias or favoritism shown on Meet The Press during his watch. He left a big void in the profession that no one has the ability to fill.

  2. joelarkins Says:

    Tall TV Guy,
    I’d be curious as to your reaction to AFTER you watch the interview with Jim Cramer. I’ll await your response.

  3. Doug Johnson Says:

    Much of the trouble with TV news is that there’s too much of a focus in selling the sizzle instead of the steak. Hot, fast, sexy, controversial shouldn’t replace detailed, researched, informative and balanced… but they have.

    Execs push for “both sides of the story,” which translates to “get a couple of people with opposing views to holler at each other.” Anybody with half a brain realizes that there are usually more than two sides to any story… but too many TV people have had it drummed into their heads that it’s impossible to tell a complex story on TV.

    Cable news goes after niche audiences. A lot of times, the people interviewed make up much of those audiences, so there can be an incestuous nature to what goes on. If they’re too hard on the people they report on, they lose access, and with it, cachet.

    Stewart did a good job here. Letterman has done similar things. But it’s sad that comedians have to be the voices of responsibility when it comes to missteps of the news media (although Howard Kurtz on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” does the same kind of work; but since he’s not funny about it, it doesn’t draw the same kind of attention).

  4. the tall tv guy Says:

    After viewing the Jon Stewart – Jim Cramer interview, I admit, Stewart did a good job. He asked Cramer the questions needed and wouldn’t let him off the hook as well…would follow up to get additional information.

    I thought Steve Kroft’s interview with President Obama on 60 Minutes was good. Did you see that one?

  5. joelarkins Says:

    I did not. My wife attempted to TIVO the interview and it didn’t record.
    I hope to check it out on line.

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