May 9th, 2008 by Rightsideup

CNN reports on a study done by the Project for Excellence in Journalism into the Daily Show. That anyone would waste time on a project like this seems pretty funny to begin with, and it’s also not entirely clear what the purpose of the study was: whether to assess bias in the show, or to determine whether people who watch the show get their news from it.

At any rate, CNN reports the findings on bias as follows:

While Stewart aims most of his firepower at Republicans, the show is actually pretty balanced in its bookings, the study noted. Of the clearly partisan, 15 guests were conservative and 18 were liberal. Presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain was a guest on Wednesday’s show.

This appears to be an attempt to reduce bias to compliance with the Fairness Doctrine. If the Fairness Doctrine was the only measure of bias, then every news outlet could easily be exonerated of any bias. But we all know that the bias shows itself in many different ways. The questions asked of guests – whether softball or hardball questions, the views shared by anchors and commentators, the selection of news items to focus on etc. are all examples of bias which aren’t addressed by the Fairness Doctrine alone.

In fact, the first sentence of the paragraph quoted above explicitly states Stewart’s bias against Republicans. That’s the problem, and it seems bizarre to have an entire article about the rest of the investigation with this throwaway remark at the end, which confirms the bias in the Daily Show that should have been the focus of the article.

And it’s not just the opinion of the CNN journalist who wrote the article. That remark is based on one of the findings from the study itself:

Republicans in 2007 tended to bear the brunt of ridicule from Stewart and his crew. From July 1 through November 1, Stewart’s humor targeted Republicans more than three times as often as Democrats. The Bush Administration alone was the focus of almost a quarter (22%) of the segments in this time period.

Why wasn’t this the headline? Instead, the headline is about the fact that people don’t think the Daily Show is really a news show. Who knew?

March 4th, 2008 by Rightsideup

So, Hillary Clinton was on the Daily Show last night. And John Stewart opened the interview as follows:

John Stewart: Senator, let me get right into this. This election is about judgment. Tomorrow is perhaps one of the most important days of your life. And yet you have chosen to spend the night before talking to me. As a host, I’m grateful, but as a citizen I’m frightened. Your response?

Hillary: It is pretty pathetic…

Now both John Stewart’s line and hers got a good response from the audience. But aren’t both actually pretty close to the truth? Shouldn’t we be worried that this is how a candidate chooses to spend the last few hours before a major election? And isn’t it a bit pathetic that she does? At least with Leno (and possibly Letterman) you get tossed softballs. But Stewart’s whole point, as Hillary pointed out, is to “make fun of” his guests (same goes for Stephen Colbert). Is there any way you can win in that situation? Is there any way you actually get something positive out of that experience that helps you in your campaign?

There was at least a certain cool factor to Bill playing his saxophone on the late night circuit. But what does Hillary get out of this? And it’s not Hillary alone – anyone without a great on-the-spot comic brain and good one-liners well prepared and well delivered is going to flounder and come out second best on a show like this. The deck is stacked against the guest and in favor of the host just as much as tables in Vegas or Atlantic City. It really does say something about the candidates’ judgment (and desperation) when they’re willing to do it anyway.