Tuesday, June 21, 2011

TVBlog's Perspective on Jon Stewart's Interview with Chris Wallace on Fox

Over at TVBlog's David Goetzl provided a recap of Jon Stewart's interview by Chris Wallace on Fox News.  What I found interesting is that it proves the challenge of political bias because we took the same interview very differently.  You can check out his article here.

Here's my perspective.

1. Chris Wallace wanted to nail Jon Stewart to admit that Stewart is biased.  Wallace said he was just trying to understand Jon Stewart, but many of his questions seemed designed to elicit one response: to get Stewart to admit that he's biased and that he's out to get Fox News. What Stewart said was that say while his ideology informs his comedy, his main goal as a comedian and political satirist is to make people laugh by spotlighting absurdity, hypocrisy and corruption. 

2. Was Wallace unfair to Stewart? If saying Wallace is a counterweight to Hannity and Beck, as Stewart alleged, is unfair to Wallace (and I'm not sure it is) -- wasn't it also unfair of Wallace to make the same point about Stewart and other Comedy Central programs? (Wallace had prepared footage of Comedy Central programs and said he sat through hours of "South Park.") By the way, Stewart agreed that his show serves as a counterweight to "South Park" and other shows.

What's striking is that in responding to Stewart's point that Wallace is a counterweight to other more opinion-based Fox programming, Wallace responded by making the same point about Stewart, thus equating a news network and a comedy network.   It should be apples to oranges, but Wallace made a direct comparison.

3. Stewart may have a left-wing bias, but Fox doesn't admit that it has a right-wing bias. I understand the point Wallace was attempting to make about Stewart and newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post. but if it's important to understand left-wing bias of the media, shouldn't it be important to understand the right-wing bias of the Wall St. Journal, New York Post and Fox News?

In fact, the concept of objective journalism in the U.S. is a modern contrivance. In the mid-1800, newspapers openly declared their perspective, whether the Waterbury (CT) Republican-American, which was founded in 1844 and takes a conservative perspective, or the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, founded in 1833. Interestingly, given's Fox's slogan, the Democrat and Chronicle was first called the Balance, before becoming the Democrat (and later the Democrat and Chronicle).

Perhaps it would be better if all media acknowledged the filter that its editors take on the news it covers.  And it certainly would be better if those who use sweeping negative terms to describe the other side were to stop doing so and to accept the fact that they've done so. At the end of the interview, Stewart said he was guilty of that himself, but you don't hear anyone else coping to that. Partisans on both sides are to blame for this.

4. Taking facts and delivering perspective that makes people laugh does seem like more work. So, does Stewart work harder than Wallace? Stewart can be more selective in what he covers -- he's putting together a comedy show after all, not a news program. But in covering the same story and when conducting interviews on those topics, Stewart also has to make people laugh. That's definitely a tougher challenge.

5. Stewart's biggest point got left out of the recap. His goal is to follow a tradition set by Mark Twain: to hold up absurdities of American life and politics -- and now, its 24-hour saturation media.  

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