Well, of course they did. Stewart would have to transition from his position as ring-leader of a self-righteous consciously left-leaning production of elaborate political theater staffed by a crew of reporters trained to mislead any interview subject they disagree with and plug every package into their preplanned narrative to…
Hm, well, I guess he’d have to transition to doing it weekly. “Meet the Press” would have gained, at least in entertainment value if not integrity, and Stewart would have lost. He would have lost his universal out—as Allahpundit has called it, the option to pop the clown nose on when needed to escape ethical conundrums or pressing questions. Hey, guys, don’t get all bent out of shape. He’s just a lowly comedian, the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer of current events:
This Sunday marks Chuck Todd’s one-month anniversary in the anchor chair at Meet the Press. Despite an opening-week ratings spike from his exclusive sit-down interview with President Obama, the Todd-helmed show has settled back into third place behind ABC’s This Week and CBS’s Face the Nation. This has been frustrating to NBC News executives, who at one point had considered going in a radically different direction with the show.
Before choosing Todd, NBC News president Deborah Turness held negotiations with Jon Stewart about hosting Meet the Press, according to three senior television sources with knowledge of the talks. One source explained that NBC was prepared to offer Stewart virtually “anything” to bring him over. “They were ready to back the Brink’s truck up,” the source said. A spokesperson for NBC declined to comment. James Dixon, Stewart’s agent, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
It makes sense that NBC would make a run at Stewart. The comedian-cum-media-critic possesses something that broadcast executives covet: a loyal, young audience. And it’s not the first time NBC tried recruiting him. According to sources, NBC Entertainment courted Stewart several years ago for a 10 p.m. variety show (the slot ultimately went to Jay Leno). This April, CBS announced Stewart’s Comedy Central colleague Stephen Colbert will replace David Letterman next year.
I must say, despite my occasional annoyance at Stewart’s shtick, he has been at times a better and tougher interviewer of major political players than the David Gregorys of the world. His segments skewering Washington failures, unencumbered as they are by Beltway euphemism and fraught as they are with palpable liberal disappointment in the government, are effective in their oh-my-God-you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me tone. Those parts wouldn’t fit badly on a weekly straight news show.
But even taking into consideration the generally very, very low opinion I have of mainstream media integrity, the standard operating procedure of “The Daily Show” bits is to manipulate both subjects and viewers, sometimes in very underhanded ways. They invite interviewees under false pretenses, do hours worth of interviews, asking the same questions over and over to get the properly silly or downright stupid soundbites they need. If they don’t get them that way, they’re happy to clip or edit them accordingly, sandwich them with reaction shots that didn’t happen, and insert awkward looks and pauses from what the subjects thought was B-roll. It is a rare conservative who comes out of the process looking decent, though I must congratulate my beautiful, poised, and funny friend Kelly Maher for doing the nearly impossible.
And, I guess all that is fine for a comedy show. But, as someone who has made the occasional (much less funny) political video and parody, I would be pretty uncomfortable using the techniques they use. Even as an outright, confessed ideologue, I feel like I have an obligation to be honest about where I stand, give responsible treatment to the news, and not actively exploit those who are kind enough to talk to me. The “Daily Show,” comedy or not, purports to be offering some kind of insight on culture and politics, but feels no such compunction, at least in the produced bits. One wonders what it might look like if anyone held those segments to the release-all-tape standard to which the media holds, say, James O’Keefe’s productions. And, while it’s all certainly entertaining, there’s no need to enshrine this kind of thing in the straight news world by bringing Stewart over to rescue the deadly dull Sunday show format from itself. Good Lord, imagine what they’d all make up after Stewart unleashed them!
If you’re interested in a real shot at reviving any of them, will someone please just put Tapper in charge?