This is very exciting. Since the advent of the Internet, everyone has been wondering: “Whither journalism?” Now we know!
As in the past, journalism will bestride the land in order to rake muck, speak truth to power and act as a kind of external conscience for those in power.
By “those in power,” I obviously don’t mean the politicians and bureaucrats who man the great levers of government. Bo-ring.
No, as CNN so delightfully demonstrated this week, the real people in power are America’s humorists, and the job of American journalism is to call them to account!
Right-wingers have been reacting bitterly this week after Wolf Blitzer dispatched one of the reporters on his show, “The Situation Room,” to fact-check assertions made by an Obama impersonator on “Saturday Night Live.” Fact checking a comedy routine? How much more in the O-tank can mainstream media people get?
Frankly, the comedy routine itself was pretty mild. It didn’t look as though Fred Armisen was trying all that hard to capture Obama’s verbal tics or his professorial pomposity. The schtick seemed to poke respectfully rather than flay daringly.
Yet mockery of any kind from such influential hipsters as the SNL crew must be scary for the president’s admirers. Blitzer was surely only reflecting a certain anxiety in liberal circles by seeking to reassure viewers that, after all, the late-night comedians were, in fact, exaggerating.
Bill Adair, editor of the non-partisan fact check outfit Politifact.com, confirmed that the comedy writers had taken liberties by suggesting that Obama had “done nothing” so far.
That is some edgy humor, for sure! Conservatives would have no difficulty stacking up a deeply unfunny list of things Obama has done, including (but not limited to) initiating a gargantuan expansion of national debt and the federal takeover of banks, student loans and car companies.
Yet CNN has made a serious point. As Adair put it: ‘“Saturday Night Live’ is a very important factor in how people get information about American politics.”
He’s right. Americans also get a daunting amount of their news from such left-wing laff riots as Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart. Goodness knows how many innocents are picking up political talking points from Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury” comic strip.
At least now, a precedent has been set. CNN has established that America’s funnymen might deserve a wee bit of pushback from dead-serious media types who surely cannot ignore the important role comedians now play in shaping national opinion about political figures.
This will be wonderfully helpful to the electorate, starting in 2010. At the very least, it’s heartening to know that when Sarah Palin returns to public life and SNL’s Tina Fey starts tuning up her Alaskan accent, we can all count on Blitzer to provide fair-minded balance, lest the funsters “go off track for comedic effect.”
Examiner columnist Meghan Cox Gurdon is a former foreign correspondent and a regular contributor to the books pages of The Wall Street Journal. Her Examiner column appears on Thursdays.