Howard Kurtz: 'Jon Stewart Is An Icon To Many Journalists'

The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz believes comedian Jon Stewart is an icon to many journalists.

"[E]specially those in television who sometimes copy his quick-cut editing techniques," wrote Kurtz in his column Monday.

But that's not all.

Kurtz sees the "Daily Show" host as "a pop-culture bellweather," and feels his recent attacks on Barack Obama are a significant sea change. Last week Stewart went after the President's use of a teleprompter at a Virginia elementary school.

As a result, the clearly left-leaning Comedy Central star's "barbs are generating partisan buzz" (h/t Jennifer Rubin):

It was inevitable that Obama would become a late-night target, at least when Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien and Dave Letterman have taken time out from sliming one another. But Stewart, who makes no secret of leaning left, is a pop-culture bellwether. [...]

"He's clearly become an important cultural arbiter," says Robert Lichter, director of the Center for Media and Public Affairs. "He's pulled off the trick of being taken seriously when he wants to be and taken frivolously when he wants to be." 

Bill Kristol, the Weekly Standard editor and an occasional guest, sees a glimmer of hope. "Jon has always been a crypto-neocon," he e-mails. "Could he be coming out of the closet? . . . A neoconservative is a liberal mugged by reality."  [...]

In recent weeks, Stewart has accused the president of hypocrisy for breaking his pledge to televise legislative negotiations on C-SPAN: "This looks and sounds pretty bad for Obama." His "senior black correspondent," Larry Wilmore, solemnly informed the host that "Negroes aren't magic. . . . He's just suffering from the hard bigotry of high expectations." On another night, Stewart chided Obama for his cerebral style, saying: "You thought you could win us over with rational policy decisions and an even temperament?"

None of these jokes are particularly cutting, but what's telling is that they're being told at all. During the campaign, Lichter says, comedians made far more jokes about George W. Bush and John McCain than about Obama.

This caught the attention of Commentary's Jennifer Rubin: 

It wasn’t too long ago that Obama wasn’t funny. That is, none of the late-night comics thought he was funny. The New Yorker couldn’t run a funny cartoon on its cover. Obama was above jokes. You don’t laugh at “sort of God,” you see. But as the mask of competence slips and the blunders mount, he becomes once again a comic target. [...]

The “real” media’s disinclination to treat Obama as roughly as they have treated previous presidents has left the field wide open for a cable network comic to play the role that independent journalists used to — holding the White House accountable, skewering the president for errors, and refusing to take seriously the spin coming from administration flacks.

Indeed, but here's the real punch line from Kurtz:

As a faux newsman who regularly skewers the media, Stewart is an icon to many journalists, especially those in television who sometimes copy his quick-cut editing techniques. As NBC anchor Brian Williams, a regular guest, told National Public Radio: "A lot of the work that Jon and his staff do is serious. They hold people to account, for errors and sloppiness."  

Wow! Jon and his staff actually hold people to account. What a concept.

What does it say about such behavior being held in high esteem by so-called journalists? After all, isn't this what they're supposed to do 24 hours a day, seven days a week?

As such, shouldn't that line by Kurtz more accurately read, "Stewart is an icon to TOO many journalists?"

As Rubin noted, maybe the comedian's fans in the media should take a hint:

It may be that Stewart’s newfound boldness in ribbing Obama is indicative of a change in Obama’s fortunes. But it also speaks volumes about the reluctance of the entire media — serious and otherwise — for the better part of a year to critically assess Obama’s policies and political instincts.

Now that the spell is broken and Obama is “funny,” maybe the media will discover he is also fodder for serious reporting. Perhaps they will ask some serious questions — when and if he ever gives another press conference.
Perhaps. But in the end, the real comedy as it pertains to Obama has not come from the "Daily Show" for the reporting on the former junior senator from Illinois by virtually every television news outlet has been a joke.
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.