Thursday, January 06, 2005

Victory for Jon Stewart, humanity

So it's not exactly defeating Bush, but Jon Stewart's appearance on CNN's Crossfire shows its results, albeit belatedly.

Tucker Carlson takes his bow tie over to NBC and Crossfire is no more (WaPo), and the best part is, both Carlson and the network acknowledge the role Stewart's smackdown played in the decisions. [click here to continue]
CNN/U.S. President Jonathan Klein sided yesterday with comedian Jon Stewart, who used a "Crossfire" appearance last fall to rip the program as partisan hackery. "I think he made a good point about the noise level of these types of shows, which does nothing to illuminate the issues of the day," Klein said in an interview. Viewers need "useful" information in a dangerous world, he said, "and a bunch of guys screaming at each other simply doesn't accomplish that."

And Carlson expressed his own reservation about the spitbath format:
...he said that he felt constrained by its left-right format and that "when my opinions diverged from those of the White House it was difficult" to conduct the expected debate, particularly when he opposed the Iraq war.

Of course, I'm too cynical to believe that either side has seen the errors of its ways and working for the good guys. Crossfire was losing to similar shows on other networks in the ratings, and as David Bohrman, CNN's Washington bureau chief says, "Tucker was done with 'Crossfire' in any event and there was no place for him." And he's going to do something similar on MSNBC anyway.

Plus, it was always unfair to target Tucker Carlson for the sins of 24 hour news networks, as he was simply playing an act. And Paul Begala got off lightly considering he is no better than Carlson - he was simply unburdened by either a bow tie or a personality. Still, Carlson and Begala voluntarily defended the format and willingly played CNN's monkeyboys, and were deservedly ripped.

Stewart's candidate may have lost on November 2, but I dare say this might be a bigger victory, because this may signal a change in the corporate culture. While 24-hour cable news networks still remain an unsightly sore on the buttcheek of political discourse, at least CNN seems to realize it can't compete with Fox News by simply imitating their format. That's good for everyone.

But we shall see. Talk is cheap and ratings ain't.

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