Jon Stewart, fake newscaster, sets the barometer of the American media:
For decades, young reporters would ask themselves, “What would [Walter Cronkite] think?” Nowadays, it’s not the memory of Walter Cronkite or even Edward R. Murrow that motivates some reporters — it’s more often the fear that the stories they put out today might get picked apart by Jon Stewart tomorrow.
Prominent among the wary: NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, who recently explained in a magazine essay that The Daily Show host “has gone from optional to indispensable” in just a few short years.
I’ve managed to dispense with it.
And Williams tells NPR’s Guy Raz that on occasion, when he feels his broadcast tap-dancing toward the precipice — tossing around a story idea for “what I call Margaret Mead journalism — where we ‘discover Twitter,’ ” for instance, or entertaining some other unfortunate editorial possibility — “I will, and have, said that, ‘You know, maybe we can just give a heads-up to Jon to set aside some time for that tonight.’
“I should quickly add, we have another set of standards we put our stories through,” Williams cautions. “But Jon’s always in the back of my mind. … When you make The Daily Show, it’s usually not for a laurel, it’s for a dart.”
But don’t worry:
None of this, the NBC anchor says, is to claim that Stewart and his crew have had some wholesale transformative effect on the news media.
Well, Stewart’s the symptom.
When Cronkite ruled the airwaves, the media were the High Priests of Information; people trusted them (wrongly).
Stewart is merely a high-concept extension of the same mass of skepticism that blogs, talk radio and the rest of the alt-media traffic. It’s fashionably left-of-center enough for establishment liberal media figures like Brian Williams and NPR to recognize and ackknowledge.