I was a copy editor at TheStreet.com in 2009, and one of my main responsibilities was transforming Jim Cramer’s hastily thrown together emails (usually in all caps and sentence fragments) into readable blog posts. I was in the office when Santelli gave his infamous tirade that somehow launched the Tea Party – yes, CNBC was always blasting in our newsroom. As he was ranting, my colleagues and I stared at each other in disbelief. “Is he really saying that?”
Dread built up in the office before Cramer’s appearance on The Daily Show. “This is not going to go well,” was the unspoken sentiment. The Daily Show’s CNBC coverage had been brutal, but Jon Stewart echoed a lot of feelings we all had about the network and financial journalism in general. Especially me – I had moved to New York less than a year before thinking digital financial journalism was my best next move.
But lo, I soon felt quite crappy about the content I was contributing to – especially as the realities of the bad behavior that led to the financial crisis sunk in. I had to explain to an opinion writer why quoting Gordon Gecko’s “Greed is good” speech was not a good idea and edit a series on investing in private prisons. And yes, a few times I had the horror of editing Lenny Dykstra’s Nails on the Numbers newsletter. I had no idea who Dykstra was before I started working at TheStreet, but holy shit – I don’t think what was in those writings was of human origin, let alone in English.
I did not watch the “evisceration” when it originally aired, but at the office the next day. Wow. Ow. I wasn’t the only one covertly watching the clips over and over, trying to balance my glee at seeing Cramer forced to atone on television for all of CNBC’s sins with my fear that I was about to be unemployed.
Cramer rallied the troops but our editor’s desk around 11. We learned that TheStreet.com’s CEO has resigned and there were other executive shifts coming. You see, Cramer’s appearance had coincided with TheStreet’s stock taking a serious dive and an earning’s miss. Yes, for some odd reason, TheStreet was a public company. Cramer himself looked defeated, worn down; but he always appeared different in-person compared to TV. The few times I chatted with him, he was quite reserved, but seemed more tired than anything else. On this day, he gave a short, weak speech that definitely didn’t fire up the troops, but he must have known nothing would in the face of what was coming.
If I remember right, 21 people were laid off that day across several departments, including editorial, including the guy that had trained me a few months before. I kind of knew I wasn’t going to get the ax because I didn’t make enough money and had impressive output. However, I didn’t last that much longer at TheStreet. A few months later I misunderstood a cue from my editor and made a stupid mistake in one of Cramer’s blog posts that circled in a CNBC colleague – it led to my swift termination. It was a blessing in disguise – I had been offered my a gig as editor at a digital advertising blog and was able to start after a two-week tour with The Jaguar Club. (Before, my editor said I’d was too valuable to lose for two weeks and was going to stick me with a laptop and a wifi card for the road.)
Seeing clips of the Cramer interview now make me squirm; I can’t help thinking, “That guy was my boss… at that moment!” When I was fired, my economist father said he was relieved he didn’t have to hide from his friends anymore that I worked for that idiot on television. I don’t think Cramer is dumb, but he is caught up in a ridiculous system in which he tries to make the grim, obtuse and often unfair world of finance entertaining for the masses.
The Cramer interview also cemented in my mind what an important figure Jon Stewart has been over the past 17 years. While many great pieces of journalism and documentary film-making have appeared in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis (“Inside Job” is a hard watch but a must-see), nobody quite hit the nail on the head like Stew-beef.
I’m very sorry to see him leave The Daily Show, but I think he’s done a great job and deserves a break. It’s a good moment for fresh blood – and you have to admit, it’s generous that he’s handing his replacement the comedy opportunity of a lifetime with the 2016 election. I remember when Jon Stewart took over the Daily Show thinking, “This guy again? Don’t they give him a TV show that fails like every other year?” I had no idea what The Daily Show would become; I don’t think any of us saw it coming; and I thank him for everything.
And whenever I see Jim Cramer on TV… Now I just smile and shake my head. Sell, sell, sell…