In July comedian Jon Stewart, anchor of the Daily Show on Comedy Central, was voted the “Most Trusted” Newscaster. He had almost as many votes as Charlie Gibson and Brian Williams combined. Katie Couric, according to the Time Magazine poll, came in dead last. Boy, if that is a not a wake up call to mainstream media I do not know what is.
I don’t think it’s as much of a put down of the anchors as it is what they put on the air for news content. The Daily Show is comedy but it also can be hard hitting, reveal conflicting statements by politicians and hold people accountable for their actions. Look at the now famous exchange between Stewart and Jim Cramer from CNBC’s Mad Money. The public has lost a fortune in the stock market and the “experts” telling us to buy, buy, buy are never held accountable. What the Daily Show does with comedic license has taken a back seat in the mainstream media bandwagon.
You see, what the media heads have done over the years is cut expenses. For example, look at the “Fleecing of America” segment that used to appear regularly on NBC Nightly News. It’s now, according to the company web site, “a continuing occasional series.” NBC is simply not doing much of this kind of reporting. “Fleecing of America” was very good government watchdog reporting that took time and money and no one in the government was your friend after one of these revealing segments. Now, Brian Williams got what he called “unprecedented access” to the President in June and, as far as I can tell, Williams never asked a single tough question. The interview was so light that President Obama made Williams the butt of a joke at the Annual Correspondent’s Dinner.
Obama said, “I have to admit though, it wasn’t easy coming up with fresh material for this dinner. A few nights ago, I was up tossing and turning trying to figure out exactly what to say. Finally, when I couldn’t get back to sleep, I rolled over and asked Brian Williams what he thought.” If Williams would have done his job, there would not have been any jokes. In June, 60 Minutes did an updated profile of Fed Chief Ben Bernanke. Good time to do this story because we are suffering through what former Fed Chief Paul Volker says is “the mother of all crises.” The Fed has denied Freedom of Information requests by two different news networks to get the Fed to reveal which banks got trillions of dollars to avoid systemic collapse. When U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders asked Ben Bernanke in a March Congressional hearing, “Will you tell the American people to whom you lent $2.2 trillion of their dollars?” Bernanke simply said, “No.”
Who got 2.2 trillion dollars is a secret and, according to Bloomberg, that is not the only one. It has also been reported and discussed in Congressional hearings that there is an additional 9 trillion dollars in off-balance sheet transactions that the Fed can not or will not account for. When asked about the trillions the Fed wants to keep secret, the Federal Reserve Inspector General fumbled for answers. Why 60 minutes did not press the Fed Chief about the secrecy of vast sums of money is troubling to me. Should the American taxpayer expect the Fed to “fix” the system behind closed doors without public scrutiny? We did get to see Bernanke’s childhood home in the CBS story and that is what’s really important!
Doing superficial event type news programming is something I call “The Soft Truth”. It is more or less superficial news and is cheap, fast to produce, and you will not make enemies. The news in mainstream media has mostly become just the stuff between the commercials. Then, there is what I call “The Hard Truth”. This story is not cheap, it ties up the company lawyers and management and, if done right, you will piss some people off. And even if there are cutbacks because of advertising shortfalls, you can still ask hard questions. It seems to me the reporters have gone soft or stupid or have been told not to rock the boat.
Take, for example, the July press conference at the White where the last question was about Harvard Professor Henry Gates getting arrested in his own home. I was shocked to see the President even answer it. I don’t blame the President; he just answered a question he probably should have passed on. I blame the Press for bringing up something so trivial to a nation with huge geopolitical and financial problems. We are fighting two wars. We’ve spent or committed nearly 13 trillion dollars in an ongoing financial crisis. The Special Inspector General claims it will take 23.7 trillion to fix the problem caused by reckless bankers. (By the way, a trillion bucks is a stack of 1,000 dollar bills 67.9 miles high.) There are serious risks to the nukes in Pakistan and Israel is dying to drop a Daisy Cutter on Iran’s head!!! So we get this stupid Henry Gates question that the mainstream media covers for days! WHAT!!!! The Gates incident is hardly a “Rodney King moment” in America. Most people have probably already forgotten this non- story. I do have few questions that the White House Press Corps should have asked:
Mr. President, July was the highest month for American causalities since the Afghanistan war started. Can you tell us why the United States should shoulder this cost in lives and money?
You fired the head of General Motors. Why have you not fired a single banking CEO; after all, aren’t they the ones that caused the financial crisis?
Do you approve of the bankers paying themselves big bonuses after a taxpayer bailout while so many Americans are losing their jobs?
Do you approve of the Federal Reserve keeping secret the trillions of taxpayer dollars given to the banks to avoid financial collapse?
What is America prepared to do if the Taliban is successful in gaining control of the nuclear weapons in Pakistan?
If Israel attacks Iran’s nuclear sites, what is America prepared to do?
Of course we did not hear any of those questions at the press conference and probably never will. When my Dad was disgusted with someone he would say, “He doesn’t know sh*t from shinola.” My favorite poster ever hung in the Programming Office of a Beaumont TV station I worked at in my early days. It was a blow up of a Shinola Shoe Polish bottle. The caption at the bottom of the poster simply said in bold letters, “There’s a Difference.” I think people can see the difference between the “Hard and Soft Truth.” One is good and is the real thing and the other is, well, crap and people can tell the difference. Maybe that’s why Jon Stewart is the most trusted newscaster in America.
Greg is the producer and creator of USAWatchdog.com. The site’s slogan is “analyzing the news to give you a clear picture of what’s really going on.” The site will keep an eye on the government, your financial interests and cut through the media spin. USAWatchdog.com is neither Democrat nor Republican, Liberal or Conservative. Before creating and producing the site, Greg spent nearly 9 years as a network and investigative correspondent. He worked for ABC News and Good Morning America for nearly 6 years. Most recently, Greg worked for CNN for shows such as Paula Zahn Now, American Morning and various CNN business shows.