‘Jesters do oft prove prophets’
Regan, King Lear, Act V, Scene III
From behind his desk on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart has been throwing barbs at politicians, celebrities, the media itself and anyone else suitably barb-worthy for over ten years. However, in 2009, what began as a lampooning of CNBC’s misprognostications turned into a pointed, biting and above all accessible critique of the network’s role in the financial meltdown.
True to form, there are plenty of laughs to be had through his focus on Mad Money host Jim Cramer five days later, but when the pundit appears on The Daily Show, Stewart puts the jester’s hat away and engages in exactly the kind of journalism practice he charges the financial networks as not having performed. A well-prepared Stewart grills Cramer, challenges his responses and gives great credibility to his own contention that the networks failed in their journalistic responsibility. Cramer, who should be applauded for having the courage to appear on the show, conducts himself with dignity but clearly expected a much more jovial appearance and is reduced to uneasy jokes and humble contrition – sadly not the long-lasting kind.
Stewart is far from the only one to accuse the financial press of ‘cheerleading’. But despite, or perhaps due to, his role as a comedian, Stewart’s performance became a rare piece of journalistic excellence gone viral.