Friday, February 13, 2009

Jon Stewart Schools Cable Journalism

Let’s be clear: Jon Stewart is best interviewer on television, because he is the toughest, the smartest, and the best informed in the business.

That is the real lesson of his week-long assault on CNBC, Rick Santelli, and Jim Cramer, which culminated in last night’s extraordinary evisceration of the Mad Money man.

-Charles Kaiser on CJR

Before his career in television, Cramer was a hedge fund manager. Last night Stewart played clips from an untelevised 2005 interview with Cramer in which he clearly describes how to manipulate the markets, bending or breaking SEC regulations to make short term money. Most telling is a segment where Cramer describes how to artificially depress Apple stock, presumably buy it, and then profit from the subsequent bump. Which is illegal. Big time.

Then there is this in the third segment, where Stewart is talking about the existence of two markets, one in which the public is encouraged to invest for the long term and the other in which huge piles of cash in the back rooms of investment companies are moved around in high risk deals making a ton of profit at the expense of the public investor:

Stewart: These guys were on a Sherman's March through their companies, financed by our 401k's, and all the incentives at their companies were for short term profit, and they burned the fucking house down with our money and walked away rich as hell, and you guys knew that was going on...

What is the responsibility of the people who cover Wall Street? Who are you responsible to? The people with the 401k's and the pensions, and the general public, or the Wall Street traders? And by the way, this casts aspersion on all of Wall Street when that's unfair as well. The majority of those guys are working their asses off. They are really bright guys. I know a lot of them. They are just trying to do the right thing. And they are getting fucked in this too.

Cramer: True.
Pundits today are telling Stewart to go back to comedy. That's because he just schooled them in how an interview gets done. Everyone is all over this story, but there has hardly been a single useful review of the interview yet. Even the Times blew the coverage with "Wow, comedian does serious interview" coverage but with little in depth examination of what Stewart said. If you haven't already, watch the unedited interview for yourself. It isn't hard to see why Stewart keeps winning journalism awards.

No comments: