Jon Stewart's Most Insightful Observation Left on the Cutting Room Floor?

24-hour news networks are built for one thing and that’s 9/11 and the type – you know – of gigantic news event, that they type of apparatus that exists in this building and exists at the other 24 news hours is perfectly suited to cover.

In the absence of that, they’re not just going to say there’s not that much that’s urgent or important or conflicted happening today, so we are going to gin up. We are going to bring forth more conflict and more sensationalism because we want you to continue watching us 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even when the news doesn’t necessarily warrant that type of behavior.

During the 1998 movie Deep Impact there’s a scene that foreshadows the above quote, from Jon Stewart appearing on Fox News Sunday on June 19, and the rise of the cable news talking heads years before they took over the broadcast media and converted it into an agenda-making echo chamber filled with self-fulfilling prophecies and ready-to-eat news narratives.

“President Beck” – played by Morgan Freeman – is speaking to the American people about the pair of comets that are on a collision course with earth.

The scene cuts away to a hectic cable TV newsroom manager – MSNBC got the bill after CNN turned the opportunity down because the movie was “an inappropriate vehicle” – rallying the staff to provide coverage of the E.LE. event.

The newsroom manager is running around, shouting out needs and wants… Among the last? Graphics. Because what would a cataclysmic news event be without a logo?

Back to Stewart’s sit-down with Christopher Wallace – according to Atlantic Monthly it was Stewart’s first appearance on a Sunday news show – where they talked about partisan bias in the media and debate both men’s role in it.

I’m not sure what appeared on-air Sunday to cable audiences, but in Gawker’s 4-minute version the above quote – and an more insightful arguments – are left out. And they are left out of the show’s official transcript as well.

Knowing what I do about the news biz, much is left on the cutting room floor at any print or broadcast media organization. But to lose this portion doesn’t seem right.

So here, retyped from an unedited, 24-minute affair posted by Fox News, is Stewart’s argument coming through loud and clear.

CHRIS WALLACE: Diane Sawyer, leading her program last year, announcing the new immigration law. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIANE SAWYER, “ABC WORLD NEWS”: If a stranger walking down the street or riding the bus does not seem to be a U.S. citizen, is it all right for the police to stop and question him? Well, today, the governor of Arizona signed a law that requires police to do just that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE: But that isn’t what the law requires them to do. In fact, the law says the only way that you can stop somebody as part of a lawful enforcement stop, you can’t just say, hey, you’re walking down the street exactly as she suggested. It has to be because there’s a broken taillight or they’re loitering, or they’re do something else. Don’t you think she should have mentioned that?

JON STEWART: Sure. Yes. No, I think you’re right. I think we should have more full context and more of the types of things that you’re talking about.

But I don’t understand how that’s purely a liberal or conservative bias. That’s, like I said, sensationalist and somewhat lazy. But I don’t understand how that’s partisan.

CHRIS WALLACE: You don’t think it’s partisan to bash the Arizona law and mischaracterize what it did?

JON STEWART: First of all, if that’s a bash then that’s the mildest form of bash. It’s a form of subtle misinformation.

CHRIS WALLACE: Can I give you another example.

JON STEWART: No.

CHRIS WALLACE: No, no. When this stop being our show?

JON STEWART: You can give me another example when I give you my feeling about the context of what that is. Yesterday there was the Weiner press conference. Every single one of the 24-hour news networks…

24-hour news networks are built for one thing and that’s 9/11 and the type – you know – of gigantic news event, that they type of apparatus that exists in this building and exists at the other 24 news hours is perfectly suited to cover.

In the absence of that, they’re not just going to say there’s not that much that’s urgent or important or conflicted happening today, so we are going to gin up. We are going to bring forth more conflict and more sensationalism because we want you to continue watching us 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even when the news doesn’t necessarily warrant that type of behavior.

So here’s my example of what news bias is in my mind.

Three networks – Fox, CNN and MSNBC – are going live to the Nancy Pelosi news conference because they are sure – coming on the heels of Anthony Weiner resigning – that she is going to make some sort of incredible statement about, you know – I’m disappointed in Anthony Weiner – so they’re all locked on it.

And the whole time there is hand wringing. Oh, I can’t believe we gotta go and do this. The American people don’t care about this. They care about jobs. They care about the economy. That’s what the American people care about. We’re about to go live to Speaker Pelosi. She’s about to do that.

She steps up to the podium and says what. I’m not going to comment about Anthony Weiner. I’m going to talk about jobs and the economy. And what did everybody do.

CHRIS WALLACE: Left.

JON STEWART: So what’s you’re proof again about the partisan agenda and what I do? That’s the embarrasment.

The embarrassment is that I’m given credibility in this world because of the disappointment that the public has in what the news media does.

CHRIS WALLACE: I don’t think…

JON STEWART: not because I have an ideological agenda.

CHRIS WALLACE: I don’t think our viewers are the least bit disappointed with us. I think our viewers think, finally, they’re getting somebody who tells the other side of the story.

JON STEWART: Right.

A footnote

[1] Deep Impact arrived in theaters in May 1998, about four years after O.J. Simpson lay in the back of a white Bronco with friend Al Cowlings driving down a California freeway carrying the L.A.P.D. and every news agency in tow.

In that moment, Simpson unleashed a torrent of media coverage, that while originally contained to all things O.J., soon saturated anything deemed a “news event” in instant punditry, sensationalism and ambulance chasing, only to be forgotten when the next “news event” came along.

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