mr. zilla goes to town

Monday, October 18, 2004

Jon Stewart on Crossfire

In one of those "many things to blog about but too busy to blog" phases here about six weeks ago, I went down to GWU to be part of the studio audience for CNN's crossfire. My recollections of the show weren't too strong, not having had a TV for a while nor much of an inclination to watch one for even longer.

As much as I'm interested in sniffing the smelly armpits of politics in this country, on a cost-benefit analysis its just not worth the precious minutes of the day I could otherwise spend scratching myself in uninterrupted silence. TV news here is crap; TV current affairs shows are crap, crappity crap crap...

Nonetheless I girded my loins (and stopped scratching them in public) but closeup first re-impressions were quite horrible. I experienced actual disgust that this was what passed for top-shelf news oriented political television coming out of CNN and Washington. The format is brief, and the focus of the rapid-fire interviews is on the completely banal minutae of whatever phase of the electoral spin cycle both campaigns were pumping out at the time. Two partisan hosts take turns throwing pointless questions at some guest who rolls along regardless with the given talking points of the day. This is apparently "hard hitting" and some kind of excuse for televised journalism.

Well today at free speech zone you can download the video and see what happens when Comedy Central's Jon Stewart goes on Crossfire and quite sincerely, substantively (and for the most part calmly) thoroughly reams conservative host-git Tucker Carlson while slamming CNN and the show in general. It's a big .mov file to download (60MB) but is worthwhile.

It's both reassuring and ridiculous the prominence that Stewart's Daily Show has here in the news consumption habits of twentysomethings. (I consume occasional clips via the WWW a couple of times a week). Its absurd to watch a light and jolly comedy show that, moreso than any of the actual cable NEWS channel stuff I used to watch, actually calls bullshit and contextualises the issues of the day, instead of being tragically absorbed in farcical "objectivist" he-said, she-said reporting that generally has the perspective and memory of a goldfish on an meth binge.

Continued. Heh, love it when someone's actually done some research on something you're ranting about:

Polling conducted between July 15 and Sept. 19 among 19,013 adults showed that on a six-item political knowledge test people who did not watch any late-night comedy programs in the past week answered 2.62 items correctly, while viewers of Late Night with David Letterman on CBS answered 2.91, viewers of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno answered 2.95, and viewers of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart answered 3.59 items correctly. That meant there was a difference of 16 percentage points between Daily Show viewers and people who did not watch any late-night programming.

The Annenberg survey found that people who watch The Daily Show are more interested in the presidential campaign, more educated, younger, and more liberal than the average American or than Leno or Letterman viewers. “However, these factors do not explain the difference in levels of campaign knowledge between people who watch The Daily Show and people who do not,” Young pointed out. “In fact, Daily Show viewers have higher campaign knowledge than national news viewers and newspaper readers -- even when education, party identification, following politics, watching cable news, receiving campaign information online, age, and gender are taken into consideration.”


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