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Mar. 13 2009 - 9:00 am | 21 views | 1 recommendation | 40 comments

Did Jon Stewart Just End Jim Cramer’s Career?

Astonishing interview. Watch the whole thing (unedited) here. Here are some highlights:

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After being taken to the woodshed, and essentially admitting that his show is part of the problem, how does Cramer go forward? It seems to me he’s lost all credibility, and seems to know as much.

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  1. collapse expand

    His career may not be over, but ask Tucker Carlson about the damage this kind of encounter can do.

  2. collapse expand

    G.K.,

    Exactly. What I found odd about the interview was the way Cramer admitted that he was guilty of what Stewart was accusing him of. He even pledged to do things differently from now on. Weird.

  3. collapse expand

    Speaking less as a pissed citizen and more as a journalist, I hope not. What I hope it did was shame not just CNBC but a lot of media into being better. Stewart is quietly becoming our best media critic. His takedown of Carlson was too specific: no one at CNN felt they needed to do better, they could just throw Tucker overboard. This was more mature, I thought: he made me hope that the editors who ask for bells and whistles — maybe not the literal circus noise of Cramer’s show, but the literary equivalent — feel a little closer to Cramer’s world than to Stewart’s ideal. I don’t care if Cramer’s career ends. I care more if Wolf Blitzer feels just a little bit of identification, and maybe ashamed of himself, when the Situation Room music starts blaring.

  4. collapse expand

    Watching the Daily Show last night, it seems that Cramer went in there completely unprepared, hoping to make jokes with Stewart. He seriously underestimated Jon Stewart, and while it was such a roasting that I almost felt bad for Jim Cramer, someone needed to say those things point blank. I agreed with Stewart that it was unfortunate that Cramer has become the poster face for the backlash against CNBC, but Cramer has to take responsibility for the bad advice he has given in the last few years.

  5. collapse expand

    Marc,

    I don’t really care if Cramer stays or goes, either, and I agree that this takedown was more effective than the Carlson/Begala hit. Maybe that’s also because the stakes are much higher than scolding a network for it’s silly partisan hackery. Stewart’s personalizing touch at the end of the interview, when he talks about his mother, really put that in focus. Blathering ideologue talking points is one thing, knowingly convincing people to place their retirement savings in dubious investments is another. Of course, the similarity is that the commentators on Crossfire (pick your substitute) and the CNBC shows are, often times, simply being disingenuous. That deception is the real problem.

  6. collapse expand

    Marc,
    You’re dead on and I agree… I inartfully tried to get at the same point in my post yesterday: “The Daily Show” is becoming increasingly adept not at skewering clownish individuals, but the entire MO of news shows and networks. And by reducing the past week to a “feud” between Cramer and Stewart, they once again missed the point. And once again, Stewart mocked them for it.

  7. collapse expand

    I just wish Stewart was harsher, like when he ripped into Tucker Carlson. Stewart’s “I’m not your monkey” speech basically ruined Carlson on Crossfire in 2004.

  8. collapse expand

    Erinn,

    But Carlson rebounded pretty quickly and was hired by MSNBC shortly after Crossfire went down. I’m not sure how much harsher he could have been with Cramer, really, without coming off like a jerk. I thought he handled it very well, and, as other have expressed, I’m surprised that Cramer would show up without a more thought out defense.

  9. collapse expand

    With this interview, Stewart not only cemented his position as our finest media critic but settled the question “Is knowledge sexy?” Good God, yes.

  10. collapse expand

    Laura,

    Well, there’s an angle I hadn’t anticipated!

  11. collapse expand

    It was great to see Stewart chop Cramer down like that. Whoever researches tape archives for The Daily Show is a genius. Props to their writers and research team. Stewart came out for that interview totally prepared and pinned Cramer right from the get-go. It was somewhat pathetic to see Cramer come onstage, almost playfully, with his sleeves rolled up as if he was about to start a white collar bar brawl. I’m sure he didn’t feel so hot as he walked out of that studio.

    It was odd that Cramer admitted wrongdoing in almost every instance. But honestly, with all the clips that Stewart showed, it was really less of Cramer admitting anything and more of him getting caught in the act. There really wasn’t a way for Cramer to talk his way out of anything.

    Just a side note… I think it’s funny that Jon Stewart hides behind the idea that his show is a “comedy program” as he consistently produces journalism superior to 80% of the garbage being broadcast and printed. Sometimes I wish Jon Stewart would get a show on CNBC just so he would have deeper penetration and viewership.

  12. collapse expand

    Matt,

    Your last point, about the dual role of the Daily Show, is interesting. Joe Scarborough (and Tucker Carlson before him) tried to nail Stewart by calling him out for not acting more like a real journalist or market prognosticator. He taunted Stewart by saying, “why don’t you tell us what the market is going to do?” and Stewart’s response was priceless: “Because I don’t know.”

    I think Stewart should stay right where he is and keep using comedy as his weapon of choice. Were he to try to go out and do a “real” news program, I’m not sure people would be as inclined to watch.

  13. collapse expand

    As the “youth demographic” in the room, I must admit that I’ve essentially grown up with The Daily Show as my main source for news. That may sound scary to some, but honestly I think I have a more accurate view of the world because of it. Would I have been better off with CNN and Fox News? Somehow I don’t think so.

  14. collapse expand

    Paul,

    By sticking to the Daily Show, you’ve certainly have heard better jokes over the years, that’s for sure.

  15. collapse expand

    In re: Matt Tooley’s comment about “The Daily Show”’s dual role as comedy and news program — I fear that if Stewart and crew were to go all out and try to do a news show it would end up like Keith Olbermann’s program: shrill.

    Stewart’s holier/smarter-than-thou attitude works on TV because there’s no pretension to seriousness. As David pointed out above, Stewart doesn’t pretend to be a journalist, which gives him much more leeway to poke the monkeys at the zoo.

  16. collapse expand

    Matthew,

    Yep. And as to the point above wondering whether one would be just as educated as to the news of the day watching TDS vs. Fox or CNN, I think you’d have to narrow the latter comparative category to a single show. You might ask, for example, whether TDS would give you as much info about the world as, say, the CBS Evening News, or a single half-hour news show on Fox.

  17. collapse expand

    I suspect it’s always been the case that news comes from non-news sources more than we think. I recall in the week after 9/11 feeling that when the most meaningful commentary I’d heard had come from David Letterman. This is just a guess, but the difference today may be that the contrast to, as Cramer put it, an Eric Sevareid, isn’t there anymore. (the question I wish Stewart had asked in the face of Cramer’s Stewart-like protest that he isn’t trying to be a Sevareid-like journalist: “why not?”). And anyway where did Cramer come from? Not news. I seem to recall an early-nineties Esquire profile of him, based on his raging trader persona, talking about his Bloomberg machine as his “trading turret” and sporting bozo the clown-like hair.

  18. collapse expand

    Marc,

    How the never-really-that-mighty-to-begin-with have fallen.

  19. collapse expand

    I don’t enjoy Cramer’s show or him for that matter, but you gotta say the guy was really apologetic. I was ready to see crazy Cramer come out and Stewart while hitting hidden buttons on the stage. Instead he listened, stayed calm, admitted he had been wrong, and was willing to change. His career had probably been destroyed if HAD come out and been crazy Cramer. Only time will tell. Let’s see if he lied to Stewart like he said all of those CEO’s lied to him.

  20. collapse expand

    Has Jon Stewart become a modern age Walter Cronkite… The most trusted man in America? If so, it says a lot about America that it now takes news comedy to produce anything close to the truth.

  21. collapse expand

    Lewis,

    Then again, comics have always given us the truth, from Shakespearean court jesters to Lenny Bruce. What’s interesting to me about Stewart is the question of bias in reporting. Clearly, Stewart has a pretty easily defined point of reference, and isn’t trying to hide it. I think what distinguishes him, is his honesty, and his obvious smarts.

  22. collapse expand

    David,
    Comics have certainly given us truth, but never delivered nightly by one person into the living rooms of millions of Americans for 30 minutes… and never through a show that pretends to be about “fake” news. That’s why I brought up the Cronkite analogy.

  23. collapse expand

    There is definitely something amazing going on here in the culture — Joy Behar for daytime, Jon Stewart at night as the comic with hilarious scorn and preparation (he’s better, I know, but same ’tilting at windmills” rolle), Rachel Maddow the journalist with hilarious scorn and preparation? George Carlin and so many others did this in stand-up, but I agree with Lewis. What’s new is their access to viewers in gigantic numbers, and their regular scheduling, for free, in your home, when you want to relax and are most likely to bother. Do you see a Dept. of Subversive Humor in the new administration? To reach the Cramerites and others who want their news with the necessary and funny outrage it deserves? The U.N. has Angelina. Maybe Stewart for Department of the Interior? You know, the country, and our insides? Okay, I can never be as funny as Stewart, but I can watch him. Like Rachel, I also felt badly for Cramer — looks like the meeting before the show with Cramer’s people was about being earnest and apologizing a lot, in that empty way we all do these days, even when we honestly feel badly about what we may have done, Cramer! Here’s my question — what should Cramer do next if he actually cares about people they way he purports to?

  24. collapse expand

    Lewis,

    I certainly take your point. “Truth” as you put it in your earlier comment is a tricky thing. Is Stewart’s truth *the* truth? Certainly, the guy is a fantastic debater, and is a master at exposing bullshit. I think it was Andrew Sullivan who was noting the similarity of Stewart to blogger critics. I guess I’d shy away from drawing too close a comparison with Cronkite. Stewart usually focuses on one or two issues a night, and approaches them in terms of picking apart the way other media sources and/or public officials portray those issues. That’s a pretty different burden than what Couric or Williams or even Anderson Cooper are held up to.

    That said, man, when he zeroed in on Cramer, and took on the larger subject of mad money shows and what he sees as the real problems with our economic system, he made a damn persuasive case.

  25. collapse expand

    Vickie,

    What should Cramer do? Well, given that his show’s appeal was based entirely on the persona that Cramer created, and the good fortune of having it during a bull market, I’m not sure what he can really do. It’s funny that his own sense of outrage helped fuel his ratings, just as Stewart’s helps fuel his own popularity. In this way, we really have come a long way from Cronkite’s dispassionate presentation.

  26. collapse expand

    Stewart made Cramer look like the biggest schmuck of all the schmucks who cover finance. And now it’s gone viral. The headline should be: “Crazy Cramer’s Career Crashes”

  27. collapse expand

    I’ve worked for Cronkite, and his presentation was not dispassionate, but it was and is eloquent, informed, and delivered by someone who did the work behind what he says. That’s what shows in Jon Stewart, although Stewart has chosen satire as his sword. They both follow in the tradition of Edward R. Murrow, which is to shed light, not heat. Although I guess if Stewart makes you laugh hard enough, to throw off a little heat. What I mean is, they report, they inflect what they report with their respect for getting to the truth of the matter, but they use wildly polar opposite means to do so. Cramer purported to be an expert come to advise and entertain, and to use that word we all refused to use — remember “truthiness”? — as opposed to the truth. And so he’s been shot down. And not just because he caved when worrying about letting down his viewers, who trusted him, by not representing their interests. For whatever reason, he failed to even represent his own. I think out of laziness, and slickness, and the current media appetite for clownish speed.

  28. collapse expand

    Vickie,

    I meant no slight to Conkrite. I think Stewart spreads a whole lot more heat that Walter did/does, however. While I happen to agree with Stewart’s perspective, and probably Cronkite’s, too, I think it is important to strive for objectivity. Sometimes, I feel like Stewart, in his desire to act as a corrective for all that’s so poorly done in the name of journalism, shows his hand a bit too much. While there’s no such thing as bias-free news, that should be something of a goal, I think. I recently interviewed CBS’s Lara Logan, and we spoke about Cronkite and Dan Rather quite a bit, as well as the roll of blogs in framing of news. She’s quite passionate about telling her stories with journalistic integrity, and really loathes the blogosphere. Not exactly sure where Stewart fits into all of this, but I do feel that his brand of commentary (mostly satiric, and usually right on target) is fundamentally different from the Murrow/Conkrite variety. So, I guess I’m a bit hesitant to compare him to the legends of journalism.

  29. collapse expand

    Oh vay, I meant no slight to anyone. Am I sounding warrior-like? I agree with you. It’s pretty funny to compare Stewart to the legends of journalism, and yet I think we can and sort of should It’s what’s next in journalism. It used to be paternalistic, and the audience used to be grateful. Those days are over. Many in the audience are as smart or smarter than what they’re watching. This is what Stewart, knowingly or not, seems to pay hommage to, and it’s appealing. Plus, who doesn’t need to laugh or have someone funny skewer the meatballs who deserve it? I love your piece and all this conversation it inspired, I guess I mostly want to say that Cronkitism is alive and well but finding its way to be hipper. I see Maddow as another example. What they have in common with the Murror dynasty is respect for accuracy and hard work. That’s where I think Cramer fell down.

  30. collapse expand

    Vicki,

    I take no offense whatsoever to any of the comments here, including yours. Largely, I agree with what you’re saying, and didn’t mean to imply otherwise. I love Maddow, and Stewart, for the smarts they project, even though I realize that they have a lens through which they project their views. I think this whole discussion hits anybody who is playing in the blogosphere, to some extent. What are our boundaries and responsibilities? I’ve tried to be honest with the fact that I write opinion pieces. Blogging is something of an after the fact activity, more so than reporting. Is it valuable? Sure. The Stewart case brings this into focus in interesting ways. And all this has been written on a few margaritas on a Saturday night, so take it or leave it. In other words, I would never, ever, hold hard feelings towards another individual for expressing an opinion on this blog.

    Sweet dreams.

  31. collapse expand

    Just watched the full episode. I’m not a regular viewer of Stewart’s show, but it’s this kind of interview/commentary/segment makes me realize that Stewart is to today’s times what Walter Cronkite was to his: The final word on the day’s events. Watching Stewart emasculate Cramer was like seeing David Frost do a number on Richard Nixon. Very satisfying. Now, if only Stewart would invite the head of AIG on to the set. Or how about Alan Greenspan? Perhaps he already has, and I missed that one.

  32. collapse expand

    I predict that Cramer will not only survive, but thrive. He is not a clown but a chameleon who has already evolved several different identities during the course of a long and prosperous career. Stewart has shown him the path, and Cramer has said that he will try to follow it. Nobody but nobody is better positioned to become a populist avenger. The Mad Money schtick is wearing thin anyway, and the audience is flagging because nobody wants to get into the market. It’s time for Jim to grab his torch and his pitchfork and lead the angry rabble to the gates of the castle.

  33. collapse expand

    Jamie,

    Quite a transformation you propose. From ultimate insider to populist avenger. Who knows, it just might work.

    Jonathan,

    After watching what happened to Cramer, I’m not sure the AIG gang or Greenspan will be too eager to be booked on TDS.

  34. collapse expand

    I just spend a half hour reading this conversation.

    Wonderful.

  35. collapse expand

    David,
    To quote you… “From ultimate insider to populist avenger.” Did someone say Lou Dobbs!!! His is the transformation of a media lifetime. He was in the hip pocket of CEO’s, until he got on his outsourcing and immigration kick. Perhaps Cramer has a role model for his next act.

  36. collapse expand

    Lewis,

    You’re right about Dobbs! Though it’s hard for me to believe that anybody takes him seriously. Talk about a scewed perspective. By comparison to Dobbs, Stewart really is Cronkite. Somehow, I think Cramer is more honest that L.D. I hope that he doesn’t go the outrage route. The “Network” (the film, that is) model, of which all of the personalities we’re discussing owe greater or lesser debts to, is a pose itself. Nobody apes that “keeping them honest” pose better than Dobbs.

    C.B.,

    The great thing about the comment section here is that it has enriched what began as a pretty simple post, and taken the discussion in so many interesting directions.

  37. collapse expand

    Steward did propose an intriguing idea that CNBC (and Cramer) could actually report like real journalists on finance, do some investigation, and give people real information that could help them make decisions about their money, but I doubt Cramer is the guy to do it.

    He’s the one who repeatedly said what a great president Bush was–while these finance creeps were making money hand over fist. He’s the guy that was telling everyone to invest in insurance companies–while they were denying our claims and jacking up our rates. He gushed over the money to be made investing in big oil despite the fact they were (and still are) manipulating production and costing families their grocery money just to drive to work.

    In his defense, I did hear him sticking up for mortgage holders way before all this. But to suggest that this guy could ever become the populist avenger is absurd, as he hasn’t a conscience. Am I the only one that saw the off-camera interview? I’d would certainly never trust him.

  38. collapse expand

    Diane,

    Trust is the single biggest reason why I think Cramer may be in trouble.

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    I've published two novels: The Secrets of the Camera Obscura (Chronicle Books), and The Third Eye (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday). I'm currently working as a journalist for AOL's Sphere. For the past three years I also spouted political opinion for AOL's Political Machine, which I also helped edit. My non-fiction has appeared in places like Men's Vogue, The Wall Street Journal Magazine, USA Today, Newsday, Travel + Leisure, GQ (Spain), and Vanity Fair (Italy). I've dabbled with short stories, publishing in Nerve and a few small journals.

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