Saturday, March 14, 2009

Jim Cramer: he's just a symptom

By now you've at least heard about Thursday's Daily Show, wherein Jon Stewart pulled off his foolscap and grilled former hedge-fund trader turned business entertainer Jim Cramer about CNBC's (and the business news networks in general) failure to rise above mindlessly parroting the lies and half-truths fed them by the folks who brought you our current financial fiasco.

Jon Stewart once again showed his "fake" news show does news better than the "real" news shows: his staff prepped him with a series of clips he rolled anytime his subject protested he was misquoted or hadn't said something. Jim Cramer was left no wiggle room. When was the last time you saw that sort of interview on, say, NBC? It was effective and devastating. By the end, Cramer was contrite and apologetic.

Say what you will, Cramer went knowing he was going to get bitch-slapped. He gets marks for doing it anyway - unlike Rick Santelli, who's done little more than whine after Stewart's takedown.

(The full episode as well as extended interview is available on the Daily Show website.)

Glenn Greenwald at Salon makes the case in "There's nothing unique about Jim Cramer" that this same mindless, unquestioning behavior by the press took place in the buildup to the Iraq War. Reporting was reduced to reading press releases verbatim and playing back unedited video clips supplied by the White House.

A large part of this is because news is now seen by the corporate owners of television outlets as a cheap form of content; something to attract eyeballs to be sold to advertisers. And once beholden to the profits of advertising, journalistic integrity early on becomes a casualty.

Because the last thing you want to do is piss off the advertisers with a story that might embarrass them or their friends.

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