Yep, it’s all about timing, as one of my friends used to say. He was talking about Super Smash Bros on N64, but it applies to lots of other areas, too. Jeff Jarvis’ most recent post recounts a trip to see a taping of the Daily Show. It’s a good post, worth reading in full, but here’s the most important part:
Jon Stewart regularly demurs when we journalists try to drag him into our sad fraternity. Well, bullshit. His interview tonight with Republican Sen. Jim DeMint was journalism at its best.
Stewart has a worldview. He’s in favor of civil discourse. He’s in favor of America. He’s in favor of government when it adds value and security to citizens’ lives. He does his homework. He knows his facts. He asks hard questions and won’t accept easy answers. He pressed DeMint — civilly and smartly and comically and again and again — on the senator’s divisive rhetoric in the book he was there to plug. He pressed the studio audience to be civil to DeMint. He left trying to find common ground for a discussion about better government and a better nation.
The interview went on 20 minutes or maybe even 30 minutes to fill a seven-minute slot. Stewart wasn’t filling time; he was asking questions. The remainder, Stewart said, will end up on the net (I’ll link when it’s up) and I urge you — or at least my journalism students — to watch it as an object lesson in interview that try to get somewhere (most don’t).
Obviously, Jarvis doesn’t come out and say it, but you can see through his word choice (‘sad fraternity,’ most interviews ‘don’t [try]’ to get somewhere) that journalism, institutionally, is an absolute joke right now. Jarvis may not come out and explicitly state it, but the reason that journalists crush on Stewart is that journalism is so blatantly lacking When journalists claim Jon Stewart as one of their own and talk about the comedy’s potential to do journalistic work (the latter of which I strongly agree with, for what it’s worth), it’s a reflection on just how pathetic their industry has become and how much those journalists despise that.
So, right on cue, here’s the question that the NYT’s public editor poses today:
I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge “facts” that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.
As Atrios puts it, no, that isn’t an Onion headline. That sentence was written by the public editor of the New York Fucking Times.
That line has received much opprobrium on the Twittertoobz today, all of it richly deserved. When the NYT is carefully, judiciously pondering whether or not to take the radical step of actually bothering to check if people are bullshitting them, it’s little surprise that Jeff Jarvis or any other journalism type is hanging on to Jon Stewart. Because the institutions that are supposed to be fulfilling the journalistic role have long since abdicated it.
UPDATE: Jay Rosen.