Earlier this week, Congress passed the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, guaranteeing continued funding for 9/11 first responders for the rest of their lives. Jon Stewart was obviously instrumental in getting that bill passed, lending his celebrity to an important cause. And if you haven’t seen it yet, this photo of Jon Stewart smirking as Mitch McConnell walks by is priceless.
This week’s hero is Jon Stewart.— Travis Akers (@travisakers) July 24, 2019
The look on his face as Mitch McConnell walks past him to vote on the 9/11 First Responders Bill today is all of us.
Thank you Jon Stewart! pic.twitter.com/10spaNZRCr
I miss Jon Stewart for a lot of reasons, chief among them his sense of humor and his anger. Mostly, though, I miss having Jon Stewart around because, more than anyone, he kept the media in check. Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show is great, but it covers the news. Jon Stewart covered the coverage of the news. He regularly destroyed not just Fox News, but all of cable news — he challenged the way they approached topics, how they devoted their resources, and frequently called them out for ignoring substance in favor of the horse race. I don’t ultimately know how much impact it had, but I have to think that cable news journalists at least gave some consideration to how much sh*t they were going to get from Jon Stewart before they took a certain approach.
But you know who does that now? And how does it really well? Soledad O’Brien. Every day. On Twitter. And unlike Stewart, O’Brien actually has years and years of cable news experience from which to draw her observations. O’Brien still does a lot of documentary work, and she appears on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, but otherwise, when she’s not riding horses (or laid up because of a horse-riding injury), O’Brien is calling out members of the media on Twitter, often taking aim at the way Donald Trump is covered (she has a particular peeve about yes/no questions).
In any respect, yesterday during the Mueller hearings, Soledad O’Brien was out in full force, calling out members of the media left and right for ignoring the substance of the hearings and focusing on optics. O’Brien can be delightfully brutal. Here she is taking issue with Chuck Todd’s obsession with “optics”:
Search for the truth not the optics. Report on the truth. Not the spin. https://t.co/YK318SLIwK— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) July 24, 2019
When you’ve lost Chuck Todd, it literally means nothing. https://t.co/wAPsnsqK3u— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) July 25, 2019
O’Brien was particularly irritated with a few reporters at The New York Times for the way they were framing the Mueller hearings, and her irritation has (rightfully) extended into this morning. This exchange on The NYTimes during the hearing ignited O’Brien’s irritation:
O’Brien’s words speak for themself:
You don’t think there’s an impact to how you frame stories? You don’t think—as REPORTERS— it matters if you describe something as ‘dull’ or ‘dull but critical’ or “so important that we encourage you to ignore the jargon.” Jesus—we seem to be screwed by our media’s lack of guts. https://t.co/dallRvYaS3— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) July 24, 2019
But that’s not accurate! Framing is what helps an audience understand the import of what is unfolding. The context. The history. The relevance. Not just: was I entertained by a Congressional grilling? https://t.co/viEDovasiG— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) July 24, 2019
I’ve done MANY, MANY docs where I had to walk an audience through the complications of redlining or urban ‘renewal’. Some of the data is boring. My JOB is to explain why it’s actually riveting. Why it’s historically crucial. What the implications are. Wow. My heart hurts.— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) July 24, 2019
It’s the difference between focusing on the ‘entertainment factor’ and focusing on the ‘importance and relevance of the event.’ Wow. Just absolutely wow. https://t.co/LWr2T8oexg— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) July 24, 2019
It was two reporters sneering at the ‘entertainment factor’ of the Special Counsel’s testimony—and predicting that the readers of the stories THAT THEY THEMSELVES WRITE—will move along fast because hey it wasn’t jazzy enough.— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) July 24, 2019
Wow. That’s just terrible. https://t.co/DBl5qG4fjH
Whew, I’ve got to get off twitter. These NYT reporters are just killing me today.— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) July 24, 2019
Narrator: She did not get off of Twitter, although she did take a break, only to return with a few retweets to drive the point home:
What is most disappointing about this morning’s Mueller hearing is journalists’ and pundits’ post-hearing reviews of his acting abilities. Knock it off. Our country is in crisis.— Connie Schultz (@ConnieSchultz) July 24, 2019
You want an example of how many in the media haven’t learned the lessons from 2016? There analysis of this last hearing is nearly all about about theatrics and performance, and very little about substance. Disappointing.— Matthew Dowd (@matthewjdowd) July 24, 2019
There’s punditry about the “power” (or lack thereof) of Mueller’s testimony.— Mark Hertling (@MarkHertling) July 25, 2019
From my foxhole, Mueller didn’t provide theatrics. Rather, he gave a dire warning of danger we face from 1) Russian interference, 2) a lack of integrity & morals.
All citizens should oppose both.
And then she again called out Maggie Haberman for how she chose to frame the hearings on CNN:
Literally Maggie Haberman is on CNN right now informing us that Trump’s team feels “really good about today.” So: in all the options for framing SHE is the one who is pushing the ‘let’s move on, nothing to see’. She could choose to frame it anyway she wants. It’s pathetic. https://t.co/uQpebtqoYz— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) July 25, 2019
This is not what those reporters were saying. And please note: Maggie then went on CNN, where she had a chance to frame the ‘under appreciated’ aspects of this story, and did not. So no. That is not what happened. They were saying ‘whoo, he’s dull’. https://t.co/UbHVV3ZMtp— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) July 25, 2019
*sigh*. It’s NOT a ‘weird take’ if you are a pathological liar. https://t.co/VjqFXrPur1— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) July 25, 2019
Pundits could have dug into his words: https://t.co/H6d4kdkqIt— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) July 25, 2019
Apparently it wasn’t jazzy enough for reporters to think the content mattered https://t.co/s5l82fgOAO— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) July 25, 2019
Here are a couple more retweets on the issue:
If you want to understand how much the putatively objective press has internalized Trump’s own metrics for evaluating public events, check out these headlines treating a hearing where Mueller all but said the president is unprosecuted felon as a lackluster Rolling Stones reunion pic.twitter.com/5QigdmLi9t— Adam Serwer🍝 (@AdamSerwer) July 25, 2019
Mueller testified the president and his campaign welcomed Russian interference, benefited from it, tried to deflect blame from Russia, then tried to block the investigation. The best newspapers in America are reviewing the hearing like a bad episode of game of thrones.— Adam Serwer🍝 (@AdamSerwer) July 25, 2019
The point is: O’Brien is fantastic, and before reporting or opining on current events, more journalists and pundits should ask themselves: What would Soledad do?
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