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Sunday, May 03, 2009

SOUND OFF: ALL THE NEWS THAT'S FIT TO SPOOF

Does Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," have any obligation to do his daily send-up of the news in an accurate and well-researched manner, given that he is regarded as a journalist by many people? Yes, according to 36 percent of the readers who responded to an unscientific poll on my column's blog.

In a 2007 survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, Stewart was named by 2 percent of respondents as the journalist they admired most. Katie Couric led at 5 percent. with Stewart tied with Tom Brokaw, Anderson Cooper and Brian Williams for fourth place.

"Perhaps," one reader writes, "Mr. Stewart could have a disclaimer at the beginning and end of each program: `Please don't be stupid enough to believe that everything you hear during this program is truthful."'

Not every reader is so caustic, however.

"Several of the people that I know who watch Jon Stewart do believe that they are getting the `real news,"' another writes, "from someone who is not afraid to `tell it like it is."'

Martin Maines of Middletown, Ohio, suggests that the real issue doesn't involve Stewart at all.

"(If) people can't tell the difference between him and the so-called legitimate, mainstream journalists," Maines writes, "maybe the question of ethical obligations should be raised about the way (mainstream journalists) present the news. After all, their reporting is supposed to be accurate and unbiased. If it were, then maybe it would be easier to tell the difference."

Check out other opinions here, or post your own by clicking on "Comments" or "Post a comment" below.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business and The Good, the Bad, and Your Business: Choosing Right When Ethical Dilemmas Pull You Apart, is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to rightthing@nytimes.com or to "The Right Thing," The New York Times Syndicate, 500 Seventh Avenue, 8th floor, New York, NY 10018. Please remember to tell me who you are, where you're from, as well as where you read the column.

c.2009 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)

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