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More Cramer React

Brian Lowry points out that CNBC ratings have dropped somewhat since the Cramer-Stewart feud started, but the interview last night undoubtedly did some damage.

“CNBC has a small audience, but it’s nevertheless an extremely
valuable franchise for NBC Universal that has been damaged in the
public consciousness over the last week. That concern perhaps explains
why Cramer has made a veritable tour of NBC assets — the “Today” show,
“Morning Joe” on MSNBC, Martha Stewart’s NBC-distributed syndicated
program — to defend himself, albeit not particularly well. If the PR
conclusion was that sitting in dark room hiding wasn’t an option, that
certainly would have been preferable for Cramer and CNBC to what
transpired Thursday.

“How this will play out is yet to be
determined, but my gut says the whole “feud” will likely fade away
fairly soon. Nevertheless, given the pain the economy continues to
inflict on the public, “The Daily Show” has delivered a reminder of the
need for independent-minded journalism — and in the process rendered
CNBC a laughingstock to many casual viewers that might not have
afforded the channel much thought previously.”

James Poniewozik of Time writes, “It was most fascinating as a discussion about
how business journalism in particular and journalism in general are
done in America. 

“About CNBC generally, Stewart kept
returning to the question not only of why the network didn’t report on
financial disaster coming, but who CNBC is for at all: “Who are you
responsible to? The people in the 401ks and the pensions and the
general public, or the Wall Street traders?” Stewart asked (adding that
most traders are “bright guys” who are “f__ed in all this too”). 

“The answer seems pretty plain if you watch the channel: it’s for the
traders. Period. It’s not just that CNBC doesn’t serve average,
buy-and-hold investors. It’s that its very existence—at least, as it is
presently aimed and structured—goes against their interests.”

Alessandra Stanley writes in the New York Times, “Mr. Stewart treated his guest like a C.E.O. subpoenaed to testify
before Congress — his point was not to hear Mr. Cramer out, but to act
out a cathartic ritual of indignation and castigation.”

She adds, “And while it’s never much fun to watch a comedian lose his sense of
humor, in an economic crisis, it’s even sadder to see supposed
financial clairvoyants acting like clowns.”

Andrew Sullivan: “Stewart – that little comic with the Droopy voice for Lieberman – is
actually becoming an accidental activist. Why he matters, is why South
Park matters. He, like Matt and Trey, do not leave aside their own
profession from scrutiny: they have the actual balls to take it on.
There is a cloying familiarity among many cable show hosts and
television personalities. We all have to get along, even though some of
us may believe that others of us are very much part of the problem,
rather than the solution. And what Stewart has done is rip off that
little band-aid of faux solidarity for a modicum of ethical and moral
accountability.”

My note: After I watched the interview last night, I wondered whether there was in anyway a comparison to be made to Edward R. Murrow’s famous “See It Now” interview with Joseph McCarthy, an incident chronicled in George Clooney’s “Good Night, and Good Luck.” It seems like hyperbole to actually make that comparison — even ridiculous when you consider that Stewart and Murrow cannot have two different backgrounds. But some bloggers are making the comparison, and the reason is the timing. Up to now, no media figure that could match Cramer or any of the other CNBC personalities has actually called them on their history of misguided punditry. As much as Stewart has decried “cheap populism,” his comments were reflective of the anger of anyone who has seen vast savings cut in half, not fully understanding what happened and wondering why they’d invested so much in a market that really was frought with risk. In the coming days there will be ample debate on how fair it was to direct so much populist anger at Cramer himself — he’s not Madoff, after all — but what Stewart did is redirect criticism to the system that got us into this mess, rather than the government that’s trying to bail us out.

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