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Looking for economic meltdown's media demon at CNBC

WASHINGTON — As public furor over the economic meltdown rises, Comedy Central star Jon Stewart has turned not just his humor but his full-throated outrage against financial journalists who he says aided and abetted the likes of Bear Stearns, AIG and Citigroup — especially those who work for the nation's top business news channel.

Stewart morphed into a populist avenging angel this week, demanding to know why CNBC and its most manic personality, Jim Cramer, failed to warn the public about the risky Wall Street conduct that triggered the crisis.

In his Daily Show faceoff with Cramer on Thursday, Stewart accused the network of peddling "snake oil." Cramer, a former hedge-fund manager who sounded apologetic at times, has told colleagues he felt blindsided by Stewart's hostile approach. Many CNBC staffers were furious with Cramer on Friday for failing to defend the network's reporting. CNBC declined interview requests.

Business journalists generally failed to anticipate the magnitude of the Wall Street collapse, reporting elements of the growing risks but rarely trumpeting the threat. And CNBC, a fixture on Wall Street, is hardly the only news organization to fall short in the run-up to the crisis.

"It's bigger than CNBC," said Jeff Jarvis, who teaches journalism at the City University of New York.

Looking for economic meltdown's media demon at CNBC 03/13/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 13, 2009 10:29pm]
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