Dry your tears: Life after "The Daily Show"

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By Boswell Hutson

In 2007, Pew Research Center, one of the most renowned polling entities in the world, did a survey to find out which journalistic medium’s viewers (or readers) were most knowledgeable. This was based on a set of political questions like “Who is our current Speaker of the House?” and “Is the Chief Justice conservative?”

The most knowledgeable people on the list were unsurprising: people who regularly read newspapers or watch “NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” on PBS are, on average, more knowledgeable than those who watch 24-hour networks like CNN or Fox News. This is because those 24-hour networks’ seemingly have the sole purpose of inundating their audiences with “breaking news.”

What is surprising about this list, however, is that the top spot — the news medium with the most knowledgeable audience — is occupied by a television show which doesn’t even claim to be news: “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” Though this probably goes without saying, “The Daily Show” is a satirical news program which oftentimes mocks or makes direct attacks at mainstream media from a fairly strong, left-wing perspective.

While the idea of the show sounds silly, the satirical program is no stranger to praise. In 2012, former legendary ABC newsman Ted Koppel described Jon Stewart (and his protege of sorts, Stephen Colbert) by saying: “They don’t pretend to be journalists. They are doing a better job than the real journalists.”

At first glance, such praise from lauded industry professionals seems confusing, especially because “The Daily Show” seeks to mock everything about the 24-hour news cycle.

There’s an element of truth to every joke, and the writers at “The Daily Show” have done a phenomenal job of weaving humor in with serious political problems, with Jon Stewart at the helm. However, last week, Stewart announced his retirement from “The Daily Show” to the sounds of sobbing liberals all over the country (myself included).

Seeing as this is the show with the most knowledgeable fan-base apparently, Stewart’s departure raises the question of where left-wing, biased news will come from, and doubts about whether or not the knowledge levels will stay up to par.

Left-wing approaches to current events, some would say, are usually over-hyperbolic and broad in their framing of issues and sometimes tend to lack rationality, but Jon Stewart was an exception. From his very culturally important interviews with Barack Obama, Malala Yousafzai and John McCain to his constant sparring with Bill O’Reilly, Stewart has proved that “The Daily Show” is much more than entertainment.

It has instead provided us with an opportunity to engage with the news in a unconventional and effective way.

The 24-hour news period which currently dominates mainstream media is one of the more sickening products of the digital age. The current trend of many news sources is that events are made out to be “breaking news” to generate interest, and thus, viewership for a television station or news outlet which seeks profit.

As a college student, this influx of information is starting to take its toll, and it seems like my generation has become more and more disinterested in the news simply because there is so much of it, and that which is easily accessible is usually sensationalized.

Perhaps Jon Stewart’s show is so popular because it bucks this trend and is only on for half an hour, four days a week, and thus can’t saturate audiences like CNN or MSNBC can. Maybe “The Daily Show’s” audience just finds it easier to pay attention for such a short time slot.

By interweaving stark social commentary with humor and rationality, “The Daily Show’s” ability to be simultaneously hilarious and poignant makes it appeal to viewers who have an interest beyond the scrolling script on the bottom of the television screen or endless talking heads.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do when “The Daily Show” goes off of the air — I may just result to living the life of a caveman with no knowledge of the outside world. Sure, Jon Stewart will probably be replaced by someone funny, but I doubt it will it be the same.

What I am sure of, however, is that during its run thus far, “The Daily Show” has been the best news program I’ve watched, and if you look beyond the jokes within the writing, there are extremely important topics being talked about in a very serious context.

Maybe someone like John Oliver will fill my Daily Show-less heart, but until then, I’ll just have to cherish what I have left, because nothing gold can stay.

Boswell is a senior in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected].