The two best pieces on the March 27 show happened to be on two of my favorite targets for scorn: Fox News and Wal-Mart.
I have criticized Fox before for being about as far from fair and balanced as possible. But they hit a new low with the piece show host Jon Stewart was commenting on. The segment was a hilarious look at what happens when something goes terribly awry on a news program.
Specifically, it was a great example of what can go wrong when the audio and the visuals don’t match up. Ostensibly, the story Fox was covering was about a serial killer in Daytona Beach, Fla. As the story was introduced, the reporter for Fox mentioned the area was a popular spring break location. And with that the audio and visual seemly decided to go into two different directions.
Speakers were shown talking about a serial killer who had murdered prostitutes. But also shown on the screen were bikini-clad women dancing, apparently as part of spring break. The cameras zoomed in on cleavage and bouncing butts.
Stewart made a few wise cracks about this odd juxtaposition before making a good observation. “If your eyes were closed during that segment, which they may have been, you heard a scary story about a serial killer in Florida. If your eyes were open you might have gotten an erection,” Stewart said.
As columnist Art Buchwald once wrote, “Every time you think television has hit its lowest ebb, a new program comes along to make you wonder where you thought the ebb was.”
The segment reminded me of the stupid habit on television news of feeling the need to have a reporter stand at the scene of an event when reporting it. The result is having a reporter standing in front, for example, of a dark, closed building where hours earlier something newsworthy happened. Go home and get on the phone and find more stories instead of just standing around and demonstrating that you correctly found the location of a building.
My favorite is when they have reporters standing outside during terrible storms and you see them getting drenched or blown away by the wind. Do they really think we need to see a reporter in a storm to understand that, yes indeed, the storm really is bad?
And now Wal-Mart is trying something new. Stewart introduced the topic this way: “The retail giant has just opened a new store, which even the most poorly paid immigrant worker would not mind being locked in overnight.”
The new store in Texas is more up-scale with high-end electronic equipment and wine bottles priced up to $500, “an espresso bar, a sushi bar and bathrooms that do not reek of elderly greeters’ urine and tears,” Stewart said.
“But even as it goes high end, Wal-Mart remains committed to delivering the lowest possible price. And that is why The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Wal-Mart is using its considerable pull to resist efforts to close gaps in port security. Because it is all about the consumer.”
It was a good concise segment.
The interview segment was with Michael Gordon, the chief military correspondent for the New York Times. Gordon was there to promote his new book, Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq.
Stewart asked one of the frankest — yet good — interview questions on the U.S. handling of Iraq: “After the fall of Baghdad, what did they [the U.S.] get right?” Gordon stammered that he was not anticipating that question while Stewart could not stop laughing at the question. Finally, Gordon answered: “The U.S. government learned lessons but “they learned them the hard way.”
And so it goes.