Cable comic Jon Stewart’s smackdown of CNBC money show host Jim Cramer is now the stuff of legends.
But as Stewart was at pains to point out, he wasn’t singling out Cramer for his wrath. Stewart wanted to know why the entire business-financial news media were MIA during the decade-long run-up to this financial implosion.
Here’s part of the answer. Most journalists have forgotten, or never learned, how to do real investigative legwork. They don’t know how to dig up a paper trail. In addition, they are mesmerized by access to the top officials or top executives and don’t want to bother with those they consider low-level “nobodies.”
It’s those so-called nobodies and those documents, however, that can bring mischief to light and provide reporters/television show hosts with the questions they should be asking.
This point is well illustrated by the film The Pelican Brief. The reporter who covers the Supreme Court, Gray Grantham, did not rely exclusively on interviews with bigwigs. One of his best White House sources was a man who shined the floors and cleaned the carpets. Grantham was also willing to meet with and listen to an unknown law school student in pursuit of what turns out to be the story of the year.
Not many DC journalists today would be so open-minded or resourceful. To be fair, they are being squeezed ever tighter by layoffs and cutbacks in resources to do their jobs.
So they stick to pursuing the trivial and inane to fill airtime or newshole and make their deadlines. And more and more their audiences tune them out or stop subscribing because what they’re getting is worthless trash. Without the audiences, advertisers leave, leading to more newsroom cutbacks.
The only way to stop the vicious cycle is to start doing real journalism, covering stories that are so important people can’t wait to get to the news.
Don’t expect the media conglomerate bean counters to get that message any time before their empires crumble from total irrelevance. It’s really bad when a cable comedy show host is the one taking journalists to task.