What kind of world do we live in where a comedian is the most trusted man in America?
Time Magazine just did an online poll where Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show was voted “the most trusted man in America”. This is a title that was previously held by the long time news stalwart, Walter Cronkite.
Just think about that for a little bit.
Has the news industry degraded to the point where the real source of truth has become the court jester who pokes fun at the people who do “real news” for a living? Maybe the fact that there is an entire industry built around news at all should be a clue. There used to be a day when TV stations had news departments not because they made money for the station but because they garnered legitimacy and respect. News used to always be an economic drain on a station, not an economic asset. And then came along the advent of the cable news network, more commonly known as CNN. Soon came an onslaught of entire channels devoted to the news, whether there actually was any news to report or not. The effects of this were multi-faceted. They now report on Michael Jackson with more time, energy and money than they did the Iranian election/revolution. It has quickly become apparent that in order to stay afloat financially, all of these “news” networks have to take on all kinds of corporate sponsors with all kinds of special interests that ultimatley wind up affecting how they cover the news.
And Jon Stewart………well, he’s saying the emperor has no clothes.
Jon Stewart is saying what everyone else already knows: the news and those who report it are no longer worthy of our respect. Now that’s not to say that Stewart isn’t beholden to advertisers, but rather they explicitly say who their sponsors are and publically recognize their own shameless ties to corporations. The difference is that they’re upfront about the interests of those who pay for their shows rather than trying to pretend like their neutral. Stephen Colbert has recently been working in sponsorship pitches directly into the show. However, he does it in such a way that everybody knows what’s going on and, to some extent, pokes fun at the whole system.
I’ve talked about the impact of the Daily Show before on this blog. If you’re interested, check it out here.
Now, granted, this is an online poll. It even says at the bottom, “Poll results are not scientific and reflect only the opinions of those users who choose to participate”. But still, there’s a grain of truth here that probably shouldn’t be ignored.