Monday, March 16, 2009

Cramer vs. Stewart II

My posting Saturday attacking Jon Stewart’s attack on Jim Cramer brought more comments than usual — perhaps because I put it on my Facebook page, and most of my Bay Area friends are to the left of center (except for the occasional Libertarian).

Since I wrote the posting, there have been some other interesting observations on the tussle.

Simon Houpt in the Toronto Globe and Mail wrote Saturday:

Thank God for CNBC. At least, that's what Jon Stewart and his writers at The Daily Show must have been saying for the last week and a half. Because the uncomfortable truth, writes Simon Houpt, is that ever since George W. Bush left office on Jan. 20, the faux-news comedy show has been running on fumes, visibly desperate for a fat new target. Enter Mad Money host Jim Cramer ...
Editor & Publisher columnist Greg Mitchell, author of a forthcoming book entitled Why Obama Won, puts the Cramer trashing as just the latest successful effort of Stewart to sway American political opinion.

USA Today media columnist Robert Bianco advised Cramer (post hoc) to “know your enemy:”
Stewart may be a comic, but he's an incredibly smart and increasingly influential one — a media darling whose comments get amplified by print, TV and the Internet.

Stewart also can be unrelenting, something Cramer must have missed when he agreed go on his show. The Daily Show is not Saturday Night Live, where merely showing up wins you a kid-glove-treatment pass, and Stewart is not the kind of host who strikes whatever pose the audience and guests prefer that night. He has strongly held positions and a forum that allows him to express them with blistering precision — as he did Thursday, to the dismay of a seemingly shell-shocked Cramer. To go into that forum unprepared, as Cramer appeared to do, is suicidal.
Finally, responding to critics of his initial story, Newsday TV columnist Verne Gay got it exactly right. The whole piece is worth reading, but here’s an excerpt:
The reporters at the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times -- and my paper, too -- do a magnificent job in this difficult endeavor day after day. So, my rhetorical question: How did these dedicated professionals miss the biggest story of their lifetime? They reported the facts correctly, and they understood fully the implications of an ever-expanding market in various securities year after year. The word "bubble" became not merely part of their vocabulary but part of their daily professional lives. So, how did they miss the story?

One reason -- the story was astronomically complex, and changed quickly -- and profoundly -- from one day to the next. The outcome was by no means clear. Another reason -- they didn't have all the facts, through no fault of their own. Banks -- for example -- hid vast amounts of junk loans on their balance sheets until they were forced to reveal them. An Edward R. Murrow -- to use one writer's example -- couldn't have uncovered that garbage. Neither could an army of highly trained and responsible financial reporters. Neither, it appears, could the former chairman of the Federal Reserve. Maybe Stewart should have him on the show.

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