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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Who should be our most trusted newsperson, if not Jon Stewart?

A Time magazine poll this week asked “Now that Walter Cronkite has passed on, who is America’s most trusted newscaster?” The results:

Jon Stewart: 44%
Brian Williams: 29%
Charlie Gibson: 19%
Katie Couric: 7%

What scares me more than the fact that the state of journalism is so pathetic these days that court jester Jon Stewart can be the most trusted American newscaster is that 29 percent of Americans actually trust Brian Williams, even after that embarrassingly fawning White House reality show nonsense he hosted recently.

But here’s why Stewart is trusted more than Williams:

Brian Williams, the NBC Nightly News anchor, appeared on Monday night’s “Daily Show,” believing, perhaps, that he was there to talk about Walter Cronkite, who died on Friday. But his conversation with Jon Stewart quickly took a turn into not-so-amicable territory.

There was a chill in the air from the moment that Mr. Stewart asked Mr. Williams about how news organizations like NBC seemed to promise favorable coverage to Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina if he appeared on their shows. Mr. Williams wasn’t thrilled. (“What way do you want to go tonight, Jon?” he asked.)

(That’s Dave Itzkoff at The New York Times’ Arts Beat blog.)

Stewart is the only one holding the powerful accountable, or at least asking the hard questions (if not getting the answers). Except now, the powerful are the water-carrying journalists themselves, leaving it to the comedians to do the job the journalists were once doing.

How do we fix this? Who should be our most trusted newsperson, if not Jon Stewart? I mean, other than the actual newspeople, since they don’t seem to want the job anymore.

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me.)

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  • pausner

    You mean someone like Viggo Mortensen? He should be the most-trusted newsperson? Maybe I don’t get the question, me being Canadian and all.

  • LaSargenta

    Amy Goodman

  • Ryan H

    I’m half surprised Peter Mansbridge didn’t make the list. I understand that in states closer to the border quite a few Americans tune into CBC for the nightly news.

    As for American ‘journalism’? Forgive the crudity, but as an outside observer I’d say you’re pretty much screwed.

  • Jim Mann

    The best TV news is BBC America World News. They really do ask the hard questions and dig into the details.


  • Well, I believe this was an Internet Poll, which is not the same as a Scientific Poll.

  • Andrew

    If someone besides Jon Stewart wants to be our most trusted newsperson, I suggest that first someone besides Jon Stewart should become a newsperson.

    From where I’m standing, he’s got a clear field.

  • JT

    That NYTimes blog post is garbage. Jon and BriWi always get into a friendly ribbing contest during interviews.

  • Kate

    Seriously, the Jon and Brian Williams interview “quickly [taking] a turn into not-so-amicable territory” is bullshit. It was just them goofing around.

  • so, Olberman didn’t even get a mention? he speaks truth to power at least two nights a week on his show…

    we have no real “news journalists” … the people who do any of the news gathering just seem to collect press releases and appointments from politicians and administrators and then schedule them into available time slots. it’s also abundantly clear that advertisers have more sway and power over news programs than any actual journalistic integrity, since, even if an interviewer is actually getting to some difficult topics, they always “have to go” or “have run out of time”… WTF? it’s *24 HOURS A DAY* newspeople… you should be able to carry an interview out as long as it takes.

    blech… i’m glad i didn’t stick with journalism school. the reason i quit was, even in college, i knew you could never tell the truth with journalism.

  • doa766

    I think the problem is that what the people know as journalists are not actually journalists, they’re telepromtper monkeys, sitting in front of the camera to read headlines that you didn’t write doesn’t make one a journalist

    real journlists are not famous, they’re write articles on newpapers, magazines, websites or whole books, so you have to read their stuff and that obviously makes them incapable of winning any poll

    if most people can hardly understand the news when people read them on TV and also tell them what they should think, then they’re not gonna READ the news

    but to answer your question, if it’s not Jon Stewart then it should be Arianna Huffington

  • I second Amy Goodman on Democracy Now (radio PRI). Her presentation may be a bit too dry for people who are looking to be entertained by their news, though.

    I also like Rachel Maddow’s show.

  • stephanie b

    I also like Rachel Maddow, but I feel that she, like Jon Stewart even, is more of a pundit than a newsperson.

  • Hypocee

    Olbermann is not a journalist or a reporter or a newsperson, he is a ‘personality’ – ‘our’ mindless, raving attack dog. Like Moore, the fact that his rants have occasionally been in the same room as an empirical truth does much to excuse his transgressions…but transgressions they remain. And on a personal level he turns my stomach, while Moore at least has his weird charisma.

    If we’re allowed to do print, I nominate Matt Taibbi by a country mile.

  • e

    I think we just have to define what we’re really looking for. Most Trusted Person in America, or most hard hitting, good analysis of events, clear writing/speaking… person.

    How inelegant, I think my point is Jon Stewart isn’t always reporting specific news as he is pointing out it and the government’s own hypocrisies and overall idiocy. And he’s good at it, and he’s funny. And we trust him because he’s honest, and more importantly, we know he cares because he has emotion. After 9/11, he genuinely was shaken, and his righteous indignation over how our country is being handled is truthful.

    Versus any talking head who seems to effortlessly skip between exploiting a story about someone who died, to generically reporting about any topic.

    There is no unbiased journalist, but the lack of any conviction or the feeling of farce of a genuine front from most anchors isn’t convincing anyone. Better to acknowledge the inherent difficulties of approaching a subject with your bias, and report as accurately as possible.

  • misterb

    like Hypocee, I think TV “news” people are too compromised by advertisers and short turn-around times to do any real reporting. I like Matt Taibbi, but think that Seymour Hersh has the real track record of consistently exposing what the government wants to keep hidden.

  • JoshDM

    Brian Williams was genius on his Sesame Street appearance last year. He was the news reporter during an outbreak of “Mine-Itis” illness, which essentially turned the episode into a child-friendly zombie invasion.

    Yes. Seriously.

  • Patrick

    I third Amy Goodman. “Democracy Now!”

  • Magess

    I think the characterization of Brian Williams’s interview on the Daily Show is just.. off.

    “not-so-amicable” territory? Really? Because they’ve always seemed like friends who get a kick out of poking fun at one another. And this seemed like just more of that.

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