ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris. Satirist Jon Stewart turned dead serious last night on "The Daily Show" after days of mocking the financial cable channel, CNBC, for missing the implosion of the markets. He trained his sights on stock picker Jim Cramer, who appeared on his show as a guest.
(Soundbite of "The Daily Show")
Mr. JON STEWART (Satirist; Host, "The Daily Show"): We're both snake oil salesmen to a certain extent. We do label the show as snake oil here. Isn't there a problem selling snake oil as vitamin tonic?
NORRIS: NPR's David Folkenflik covers the media, and he joins us now to talk a little bit more about this exchange. David for those who weren't watching "Comedy Central" last night, tell us what happened?
DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Stewart had on Jim Cramer of CNBC, essentially using it as an opportunity to continue his devastating critique of the channel, in a sense putting the channel in this role as the star-struck stenographer that completely missed not only one of the biggest stories of our lifetime, but certainly the biggest story on its beat. And Jim Cramer was there, you know, he said, look, you know, we're trying to present business news. We have reporters. We have commentators. You know, I do essentially this quasi-mix of entertainment and stock picking, and in fact, there's a clip in which you get a feel of it. The first voice you'll hear is Jim Cramer's.
(Soundbite of "The Daily Show")
Mr. JIM CRAMER (Host, "Mad Money"): I'm not Eric Sevareid. I'm not Edward R. Murrow. I'm a guy trying to do an entertainment show about business for people to watch. But it's difficult to have a reporter say, I just came from an interview with Hank Paulson and he lied his darn fool head off. It's difficult. I think it challenges the boundaries.
Mr. STEWART: Yeah I'm under the assumption and maybe this is purely ridiculous, but I'm under the assumption that you don't just take their word at face value, that you actually then go around and try and figure it out.
FOLKENFLIK: And as you can hear, Stewart just wasn't buying it. He was really challenging the credibility of CNBC as an outlet that you can rely on for news and particularly its role, he felt, in pumping up the idea of investing year after year and in making sustained profits year after year after year.
NORRIS: Now if anyone hasn't seen Jim Cramer's show "Mad Money," we should explain that this is not standard financial broadcast reporting. He's somewhat manic on the show. He hits gongs, he throws bulls and monkeys. How did he respond to the finger wagging last night and what does this mean for his future?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, he really kind of absorbed a lot of body blows, you know, he basically said he agreed with much of Stewart's critique. He sort of did a mea culpa, and said I missed a lot of the signs. All of us missed a lot of the signs and to be fair, you know, most of government regulators and other folks missed a lot of the signs. In terms of what happens to him after what was not at all a fairly robust defense of the channel, you know CNBC could well be upset by the fact that he became the public face of this, but if so they helped him to become that.
NORRIS: You cover the media for us, David, in general, beyond CNBC are many news organizations that cover finance, or really focus on finance, are many of them now doing a certain amount of soul-searching, wondering why they missed this financial earthquake?
FOLKENFLIK: A number of major serious news outlets that look at the markets and the financial system in a larger sense, you know, would argue, hey we did stories sounding the bell that we really tried to draw people's attention to it, and there are some articles and some stories that back up that claim. You know, what seems to me true after pouring through hundreds of articles, is that they didn't do it in a way that the public fully understood the risks to the financial system, and in that sense they did fall down. They didn't identify the risks. They didn't indicate how likely those risks were to play out and you know, I think a lot of people now are very upset about it outside of journalism, you know, people are little abashed inside, even though they can rightly say this was an incredibly complex story to predict, a very difficult thing to pull off.
NORRIS: David Folkenflik, thanks so much.
FOLKENFLIK: You bet.
NORRIS: That's NPR's David Folkenflik.
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