Democracy needs the voices of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert (and their talented writers)
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Mon, 12/17/2007 – 12:40pm
“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and the “Colbert Report” would have likely been on vacation this week, without a writers strike. They usually take two weeks off at the end of the year, and you would think that the Iowa caucuses would have brought them in on January 2 and 3.
Of course, there are no new episodes of these shows since November 5 because of the writers strike. The writers want (and deserve) a share of the proceeds from the Internet. When you watch a show, the writing usually is what stands out. There are many good reasons to support their cause. If your company makes money from something that you did, you should get paid for it. Plus, a writer wrote this piece you are reading now. And our good buddy and BuzzFlash contributor Michael Winship is the president of the Writers Guild of America (East). So we are hoping for a quick end but one where the writers get a good and fair deal.
But the timing is really bad for this writers strike since the political campaign is just hitting its stride and we are without two main outlets for commentary, criticism, and analysis. The news writers at CNN, FOX, MSNBC, etc. are not on strike (though CBS news writers, without a contract since 2005, might go on strike in a separate situation). The news writers could go on strike at the cable news outlets and not be missed (except for Keith Olbermann).
Comedy Central has been developing themes as they continue to show the reruns. This week, politics is in the spotlight: Reruns of Jon Stewart with Bill Clinton, Bill Richardson, and Al Gore along with Colbert interviews with Ron Paul, Howard Dean, and Tom DeLay.
But they are not new, they are reruns.
I said in the beginning that if Comedy Central could negotiate separately, Stewart and Colbert would have back on the air by now. The latest is that David Letterman is trying to negotiate a separate deal, and CBS and Comedy Central are both owned by Viacom. Unfortunately, Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien are going back without writers on January 2.
So perhaps there is truly hope for something to happen in time for the Iowa caucuses. But valuable time has been wasted — the NIE on Iran came out without the take on Stewart and Colbert. The last debates in Iowa have come and gone without the sharp take from the “fake news” comedians. And we can’t forget the silence on the “rise” of Mike Huckabee.
The length of the impasse has even taken its toll in Canada, where both programs air on CTV, the top over-the-air commercial network in the country. The shows had been airing at midnight Eastern, following the local news. But CTV moved TMZ, the entertainment news show, into the midnight time slot, pushing Stewart to 12:30 a.m. and Colbert to 1 a.m. The Comedy Network in Canada had been running the shows at 11 p.m. Eastern, but now only air the show during the day.
The thought of Indecision 2008 (otherwise known as Clusterf*&k to the White House) being silenced when people actually start voting is intolerable. I’ve already gone stir-crazy.
This is the time we wait for every 4 years: to pick among the pack for our next leader. And we need the fullest, most relevant coverage of those events. We know the mainstream media will pick on something and blow it out of proportion (e.g., Howard Dean and the “scream”). What we need is the kid in the back of the class to call out the MSM. Right now, that’s Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. And they and their writers are silent.
So, major studio executives, we know you want a nice long strike. But there are more important things than whether you’ll get a Lexus or BMW for the holidays. There is the political discourse of a society, a democracy on the brink. Just toss a few more pennies per sale for the writers (they only get 4 pennies for each DVD sale now) and a few more pennies for Internet content. There’s a democracy at stake.