Jon Stewart is unhappy with cable news’ coverage of the DC Navy Yard shooting (video)

Jon Stewart weighs in on the media’s coverage of the recent shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard.

Honestly, I’m not sure what cable should be doing differently.  Not covering the story at all?  Perhaps.  But everyone else will cover it, and everyone in the audience is still going to turn on the TV to find out the latest, so if you’re not on the air, the other guy is.  And in an age when media is on financial life support, you can’t afford to ignore “the big story” even if you don’t have perfect information.


And I’m not sure I object to getting bits and pieces of information live.  I find it kind of interesting, actually.  We simply no longer live in an era of “evening news.”  With CNN, way back when, we started getting our news every hour, and now we get it every second with the Internet.  It puts pressure on the cable networks to keep covering a breaking story even if there is no “news.”  Because there “might” be news.

Again, if we all know that this is going on, if we all know that we’re getting raw news as if we’re watching a Twitter stream, then why is it a problem?

Stewart gets into the Boston Marathon bombing coverage as well. That’s another issue that I don’t necessarily agree with him on.  You get in front of a camera and ad lib for 12 hours, then talk to me about the quality of the spoken word.  And again, it’s fine to say “well then they shouldn’t cover it at all,” but really?  They’re not going to cover the Boston Marathon bombing 24/7?

What would be interesting to see would be a side-by-side comparison of NBC’s Pete William’s coverage of the bombing versus, say, CNN’s.  People praised Williams a lot.  But I’d be curious to see how much time Williams was on the air, how much time he needed to fill, and then what he reported versus what other networks reported.  Also, what else did NBC report, what did other anchors do on the network, when Williams wasn’t on the air – did they make the same “mistakes” as CNN?

I just feel as if it’s easy to criticize the news without prescribing exactly how the coverage should have been different.  And it’s not enough to say “don’t share rumors or unconfirmed info,” because then there would be no reporting on fast-breaking stories like this at all.  (Should CNN have just stood a camera up at the Navy Yard and left it live for a few hours with no commentary?)

One other important point, CNN is covering this stuff because Americans want to watch it.

This reminds me of how, from time to time, when I post some thoughtful story that took me hours to write, I sometimes get very few page views on it. But then I post something frivolous, and it goes super viral.  The death of Glee star Corey Monteith comes to mind.  I remember that news of his death hit the same night that George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin.  I got home from being out late, so I wrote about both and posted them that evening.  Guess which one did better?  The Glee death got nearly five times as much traffic as the Zimmerman verdict.  (A “pageview” basically means how many times was the story read.)

Death of Glee star Corey Monteith

Pageviews: 40,892
Facebook likes: 332
Tweets: 31

George Zimmerman acquitted in Trayvon Martin killing

Pageviews: 8,849
Facebook likes: 62
Tweets: 12

Keep in mind that a lot of media, this site included, have been running on financial fumes for going on five years now.  The economic collapse, along with the change in the media environment, including the change in online advertising, has been a disaster for the media.  Just because you see so many ads on this site every day does not mean that we are making much money – I’m still making 1/3 of what I did before the economy collapse.  Imagine someone cut 2/3 of your paycheck – now you have a sense of what the media is going through.

With that in mind, it’s not a very good incentive for writing more thoughtful stories – for doing more thoughtful (or restrained) coverage – knowing that the thoughtful stories risk running you into bankruptcy.

Sometimes the fault lies not in our media, but in ourselves.

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Part 2:

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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32 Responses to “Jon Stewart is unhappy with cable news’ coverage of the DC Navy Yard shooting (video)”

  1. MGreene says:

    How in the Hell did a man walk around, with a Shot Gun, between 4 Floors for a WHOLE Hour and No One see him? What is the point of having cameras, if no one is watching them to intervene during situations like this? I just saw the video on Fox 5.

  2. karmanot says:

    Yes it was.

  3. Guys, I need your help please. For the past two months we’ve been spammed by video ads that have their audio on auto-play, so the second you arrive on the site, some obnoxious audio starts playing. We have banned auto-audio-on ads from the beginning, but the past two months some movie promoters keep slipping through. I need your help. The only way we can begin to figure out who’s doing this is to know the following info:

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  4. olandp says:

    I gave up watching the news many many years ago. The endless speculation of on air air heads was too much for me. I would much rather wait to get distilled concise information. A breaking alert is helpful, but leave it there and wait until you get confirmed information.

    As far as the Cory Monteith vs George Zimmerman stories go, it was nearly impossible to get away from the George Zimmerman story, everybody was doing it. I think it was here I first heard about Cory and looked at the story, but not the Zimmerman story.

  5. SLH112 says:

    Al Jazeera was also pushing for an attack in Syria.

  6. SLH112 says:

    I’m sorry but you’re a really silly person. Sensitive and just out of the ballpark. Drew2u’s explanation was dead on.

  7. Thom Allen says:

    If Al Jazeera were on TV sets at truck stops, within minutes the sets would be riddled with bullets as the patrons fired from their pistols and AK-47s at the terrorists on the TV.

  8. karmanot says:

    Indeed! When they started interviewing gum blotches on the sidewalk I turned it off.

  9. Naja pallida says:

    BBC News is on PBS late at night… at least here, anyway. :)

  10. BeccaM says:

    I don’t hesitate to ask managers to change the station to something else.

  11. karmanot says:


  12. karmanot says:

    You are probably right. The shift is to a younger audience. They sent Old Ed into the elephant’s graveyard for a spell and it looks like the ever increasingly inchoate Tweety is being moved around. I’ve tried Al Jazeera, but find it uneven. I miss the old MSNBC. Seems like it’s turning into a hipper version of CNN.

  13. Drew2u says:

    Yet thousands do, and guess which news station is the dominant channel?

  14. BeccaM says:

    Fortunately I don’t go to fast food places or truck stops when I want to watch some news. ;-)

  15. Drew2u says:

    Those are also “premium” channels that aren’t included in the cheapest tier of cable packages presented everywhere at fast food places and truck stops.

  16. Drew2u says:

    To be fair, Rachel always ties seemingly disparate narratives, notably off the top of my head, some fish factory getting a wrong phonecall or something. I will concede that some of her gestaltism reaches into “grasping at staws” equivalency.
    As for Chris Hayes, I haven’t watched an hour of his show; I really don’t like the new lineup MSNBC has since Comcast bought the network. Unfortunately I think it’s precisely the college sophomore debaters that ComcastNBC is reaching out to.

  17. BeccaM says:

    Al Jazeera America and BBC International are genuine news channels like CNN used to be in the 1980s and early 90s.

    If I want broadcast news, those are my go-to channels.

  18. karmanot says:

    Yes, all that is quite true, but it was highjack propaganda of false equivalency. A twofer—- Navy Yard slaughter and Snowden are similar. It pays to dig beneath the surface of cable news. Maddow’s brilliant journalism is slowly becoming more like propaganda every month. Chris Hayes started out as a smart ass false equivalency maestro, viewing every event through the eyes of a precocious college sophomore debater.

  19. karmanot says:

    Bingo, bingo, bingo! When CNN devotes ten minutes to the trauma caused Alexis by the death of his pet rabbit in childhood, thus establishing a direct link to schizophrenia in adulthood, I may, just may murder my TV.

  20. Drew2u says:

    The only thing I saw Rachel Maddow make in comparison with Snowden was that both were private contractors, and she was only making that comparison to make the point that our national security is outsourced to what is essentially modern-day mercenaries with no loyalty except to the coin.
    The point that private contractors are in charge of background checks and authorizing security access for other private contractors is kind of a big point.

  21. karmanot says:

    Watch Al Jazeera. Also BBC does have news on cable. CNN has declined to the point where comparisons to FOX news are appropriate.

  22. karmanot says:

    The Navy Yard reporting is very interesting. Every dead child, innocent, and mass slaughter has now been eclipsed by an attack on the military—here at home in the good ole’ USA and that is bigger in the circus tent than the massacre of twenty children in new Town. It was sickening to see Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow make a false comparison and analogy to the Snowden whistle blowing event. You rightfully see published works from the desperation of financial loss, but believe me, it is here to which come for more credible journalistic accounts of current events.

  23. BeccaM says:

    Unfortunately, Comedy Central is terrible with auto-play video, and even the add-ons and config changes don’t always stop them.

  24. caphillprof says:

    I’m thinking Jon Stewart is absolutely right. The chaos, the hysteria, the misinformation is intentional. CNN is pandering to a non news audience. I watched local TV news during the day Monday and local DC anchors and reporters were much, much more professional than CNN. If only we had BBC coverage for a network comparison.

  25. Maribel Hernandez-Green says:

    Do we really need to ad lib for 12 hours , do we have to see everything as it happens. just because someone else does it doesn’t make it right or particularly informative. I have stopped watching cnn for just this reason. When are Reporters going to be reporters again, do the work, do the investigation.

  26. BeccaM says:

    Well, now the coverage has shifted from “are there more shooters?” (No, there weren’t) and “everybody said he was a nice guy” over to reports that Alexis appears to have been suffering from a psychotic break of some kind. Very sad… although fortunately the logical follow-up question is being asked: How did this man acquire the weaponry he had and gain access to what is supposed to be an ultra-secure government facility?

    I suspect we’ll eventually learn (again) what we’ve known for a while now: Despite demanding unfettered and unlimited access into every corner of people’s lives, the American government is full of incompetents, idiots, the corrupt, and the power-mad.

    As for the news coverage… way back, the idea of having a 24/7 news network was a novelty. CNN was also unique. Even though they essentially repeated the same news — updated as they went along — once an hour, quite a few people tuned in.

    Gradually, there was competition. Except instead of just doing the news every hour, they began repackaging news as entertainment, turning the entire world into a ‘Reality’ show. The point being to keep people from watching for just an hour and leaving. Once this happened, it was no longer enough just to report the news — they had to begin reporting it in such a way, you didn’t want to turn it off. This led inevitably to what we have now: News being spun and distorted, full of speculation and titillation, with a desire not unlike the late great George Carlin’s bit about natural disasters: Bigger and worse is better.

    For me, as I’ve recounted before, the epiphany came when I saw the CNN commercial in the autumn of 2002, hyping their ‘team’ of retired military generals and specialists, to provide “insights and commentary” on the looming war with Iraq. That was when I realized and even said to my wife, “CNN wants the war. They clearly have a vested interest in helping make it happen.”

    And so we moved on from simple ‘Reality’ show to a situation where these 24/7 news programs aren’t just passive observers, but active participants. At that point, we’ve moved on to propaganda. Self-serving for the most part, but still light-years from what Edward R Murrow was trying to do.

    Unfortunately, John, you hit on the side-effects of this shift away from journalism: The average person now views news as entertainment, not as a means of becoming better informed. Hell, I’m in this trap myself, as I’ve been trying to come up with interesting ways to present some of the more serious blog post topics I’d like to write about — because I already know that even if I spend hours or days putting together something really solid and good about women’s issues or whatever, it probably won’t see half the traffic of that Star Trek anniversary open thread post the other day.

    At the same time, I’d hate to see this blog devolve into another news-tertainment.

  27. Bomer says:

    But the thing is John Stewart is right. They aren’t really reporting facts just pointless speculation and misinformation. They aren’t even reporting they’re just standing there spouting whatever the hell pops into their head. You aren’t getting clarity just contradictory spouting often from the same reporter in a vain effort to fill up airtime and pull in viewers.

  28. loona_c says:

    “You get in front of a camera and ad lib for 12 hours, then talk to me about the quality of the spoken word. ” Well maybe they shouldn’t be on for 12 hours then. Heaven forbid they just get on when there is actually something to report.

  29. Hue-Man says:

    If you use Firefox, this is one easy solution I found.

    But you could also use this option from Firefox:
    Type in the address bar:
    Then search for:
    Double click and it will be set to true.

    They also have a blocker add-on as one of the answers to the question.

  30. Monoceros Forth says:

    Keeping users with slow Internet in mind isn’t just a concern from the dial-up days: often the only Internet I have available at a given time is on the phone, with its limited screen space and unreliable download speed. The low-bandwidth user should still be kept in mind.

  31. Hue-Man says:

    If only the technology existed to have a TV picture in the corner of the TV screen so you could carry on with real news – which celebrity is breaking up with which celebrity and which one is in rehab – but still monitor the breaking news story. You could then leave the real news and cover the breaking news in the unlikely event anything ever happens. TDS was absolutely right about the 12 hours non-stop coverage – why IS all the traffic going away from whatever is happening up this street????

    I don’t recall if I looked at your Trayvon Martin story; I would guess not because I rarely look at any U.S. story about gun violence, including the most recent one in DC. (I’ll forego my usual gun rant.) Sadly, it explains why a number of gay websites have abandoned almost all original material in favor of the celebrity pap that generates pageviews and, therefore, revenue.

    I’m convinced we are in an ignorance spiral – young people are graduating with little understanding of the world or of history. Their attention span is short and their available time is filled with non-news news. This means they do not understand the context of a real-news story so skip it for non-news. As they get further from high school and college, they forget what they used to know and don’t learn anything new and don’t understand the context of a real-news news story, etc. It’s like the definition of a specialist – he learns more and more about less and less until he knows absolutely everything about nothing! (This is not an attack on youth – the same thing is happening throughout the population.)

  32. Reasor says:

    If the only alternative is to embed a pair of videos that auto-play at the bottom of the article, can you just not not embed video at all? I actually miss the days of slower modems, sometimes. People would type up transcripts.

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