Am I wrong to get nervous whenever Jon Stewart gets praise for something that isn’t comedy-related? I think an Emmy for the Daily Show would be justified for every year since 1999, but when the New York Times runs a story like this, I get ambivalent all of a sudden: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/27/business/media/27stewart.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&hp
The article is about the praise Stewart is receiving for advocating for passage of the 9-11 responder health care bill. Okay, so what he did was pretty awesome. 9-11 responder health care. Can’t really argue with that. But what about this?–
“I have to think about how many kids are watching Jon Stewart right now and dreaming of growing up and doing what Jon Stewart does,” Mr. Thompson said. “Just like kids two generations ago watched Murrow or Cronkite and dreamed of doing that. Some of these ambitious appetites and callings that have brought people into journalism in the past may now manifest themselves in these other arenas, like comedy.”
That’s Robert Thompson, professor of television at Syracuse University. He’s pointing out a kind of obvious thing–almost any person, and especially any young person, would rather be Jon Stewart than Walter Cronkite. Jon Stewart is funnier, richer, a thousand times cooler, and he gets to be an artist, (as a comedian, writer, and television producer) as opposed to “just” a journalist. Maybe there was a point when a kid would say, “yeah, Jon Stewart is cool, but I want to shed light on serious things too–I want to be Cronkite,” but this Mr. Thompson seems to be suggesting that time is coming to an end. Because Stewart gets to be serious, too.
Brian Williams, who is a favorite guest of the Daily Show, is also quoted in the article, in a decidedly non-cheering section tone. Edward R. Murrow once crusaded against McCarthyism, and helped bring it to an end. But no one would care if Brian Williams took up a cause today. Not that he’d ever bother to. He’s kept busy enough just trying to keep his ratings from drowning under the Information Age tide.