The stakes have been just been raised significantly in the “Is Jon Stewart a journalist?” debate, thanks to The New York Times. No longer is it merely a question of whether the host occasionally commits journalism. Now it’s “Is he the next Walter Cronkite or Edward R. Murrow?”
The question has been raised in light of Stewart’s un-satirical coverage of the Republican filibuster of the 9/11 First Responders Bill. On December 16, Stewart, a TriBeCa resident, interviewed first responders and shamed network news programs for not covering the bill regularly.
So does that make him a Cronkite for our time? Stewart himself declined to comment, and forbade his entire staff from weighing in on his Murrovian nature, but no bother. There is no one more qualified to judge this debate than the Times‘ favorite source, Syracuse Professor of Television or (depending on the story) Pop Culture Walter J. Thompson, who was as garrulous as ever in spite of the holidays.
The NYTPicker blog noticed in October that Thompson regularly makes appearances across the Times’ sections. At that time, Thompson had been quoted in 150 different articles, including 13 by one of the Stewart piece’s reporters, Bill Carter.
Thompson famously confirmed that Americans had started eating spaghetti tacos because they saw them on Nickelodeon:
“Spaghetti tacos has made it possible to eat spaghetti in your car,” Robert J. Thompson, a professor of popular culture at Syracuse University, tells Stapinski. “It’s a very important technological development. You don’t even need a plate.”
In fact, the way the Stewart-Murrow piece reads, this whole blasphemous debate was his idea in the first place.
There have been other instances when an advocate on a television show turned around public policy almost immediately by concerted focus on an issue—but not recently, and in much different circumstances.
“The two that come instantly to mind are Murrow and Cronkite,” said Robert J. Thompson, a professor of television at Syracuse University.
The man’s brain waste literally becomes New York Times headlines! Oh to be a sophomore at Syracuse looking for a thesis advisor!
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