by Kevin Allman
From a cover story in the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, of all places:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You guys regularly make a mockery of the 24-hour news networks. Do you see anything good about the format?
STEPHEN COLBERT: There's not more news now than there was when we were kids. There's the same amount from when it was just Cronkite. And the easiest way to fill it is to have someone's opinion on it. Then you have an opposite opinion, and then you have a mishmash of fact and opinion, and you leave it the least informed you can possibly be.
JON STEWART: We've got three financial networks on all day. The bottom falls out of the credit market, and they were all running around. On CNBC I saw a guy talking to eight people in [eight different onscreen] boxes, and they were all like, ''I don't know!'' It'd be like if Hurricane Ike hit, and you put on the Weather Channel, and they were yelling, ''I don't know what the f--- is going on! I'm getting wet and it's windy and I don't know why and it's making me sad! Maybe the president could come down and put up some sort of windscreen?'' By being on 24 hours a day, you begin to not be able to tell what's salient anymore.
What they said.
I don't know what's worse in cable news: a week when there's actually lots going on (the credit collapse, the U.S. presidential "race"), or when there's nothing going on and whatever they choose to yak about (Missing College Girl! American Idol!) takes on more import just because...well, it fills time between the Head-On and the Free Credit Report commercials.
Wolf Blitzer is still the Unflappable WolfBot 3000, thinking that giving equal time to two screaming heads in Brady Bunch boxes means Journalism is Being Committed Here. Hannity and Colmes = Fair and Balanced, because they're offering both sides of the issue when it comes to the question: Are Liberals Destroying America Because They Hate It, Or Because They Just Don't Know Better?. Keith Olbermann vibrates with the exact same level of outrage whether he's discussing American torture policies or Bill O'Reilly's latest idiocy; there's an hour to fill, and the hour becomes more important than the filling, because it's all delivered with the same graphics, the same sound effects, the same urgency.
It's the irrelevancy of equivalency, and I don't know what the answer is. But, hey: it's a good, thought-provoking interview, and it's in Entertainment Weekly...and not, tellingly, on any of the cable news networks.