Serious Media

President Obama went on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last night – the first time a sitting president has ever appeared on the show.

So naturally, the rest of the “media” is completely up in arms today.

From talk radio to the cable channels, the talking heads are all bitter and jealous that the president took his time to visit with a “comedian” rather than spend the time with “serious journalists”.

This is preposterous

Does Jon Stewart make dick jokes?  Yes.

But night in and night out, Jon Stewart can be found speaking the truth in a funny, poignant, and generally informative way.

And what’s happening on the other channels?  Guests from both parties are invited on to yell at each other about the issues of the day, which much of the time consist of nothing more than trite gossip or the political value of Bristol Palin’s appearance on Dancing With the Stars.

CNN shows ’round the clock coverage of Chilean miners being pulled out of the ground.  No offense to the miners and their families, who all care very much about that, but there’s no reason that any of us should be concerned with it, other than to say, “man, it’s really great that they saved those guys”.

Larry King is an important media voice, but he’ll have the cast of American Idol on for the hour or invite three idiots on to talk about Michael Jackson’s doctors.

The exiled Rick Sanchez used to spend his hour of media monopolization reading his Twitter feed and trying to add Facebook friends, but he was an important Hispanic voice, as he kept reminding everyone each day.  Ooooh, Fotos del Dia!!  Can’t wait, Rick?  Tortillas!

How much does any of this add to a meaningful civil discourse in America?  Umm, zero?

The fact is this:

Three million people tuned in last night to watch the President’s appearance with Jon Stewart.  That’s no small number, and the number of viewers is probably growing by the minute as people stream the interview online.

Of those three million people, many of them, and I’d venture to guess most of them, are in a demographic of young people that just so happen to be shown in polls to the most disaffected since Obama’s election.  Reaching out to that audience is important, not only in terms of gathering votes for next week’s elections, but in informing a segment of the public that probably doesn’t spend a lot of time paying attention to the “serious” media.

As for the interview, Stewart didn’t exactly toss Obama soft balls.  He asked plenty of questions that put the President on the defensive and offered plenty of chances for missteps.  When do you think the last time that happened on Fox News with a Republican Congressional leader was?  I’m guessing never.

And while they’re busy complaining that Stewart’s show is a joke, the truth is that Jon Stewart is loathe to let politicians feed him a tray of bullshit without calling them on it.  He’s well prepared and you can bet that if someone tells him something untrue, he’ll be back on the air the next night making fun of them for lying.

That’s more than you can possibly say for even the most “serious” media, the Sunday talk shows.  Meet the Press host David Gregory rarely asks follow up questions and will always let his line of questioning go if it’s simply avoided by whoever the guest is.

Because those hosts depend on their “access” and Jon Stewart simply doesn’t.  If someone doesn’t want to appear on The Daily Show, well, the show will get by just fine.

At the end of the day, the media should be less concerned with whether or not the President appears on a show that makes joke, and more concerned with whether or not the job they are doing is, in fact, the joke.

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