Recently, a man whom I greatly admire, Jon Stewart, decided to retire from his line of work. For 16 years Stewart has hosted Comedy Central’s “fake” news program, The Daily Show. And although satirical in nature, the positive influence he has had using his show has been more widespread than any political talk show I can think of.
Stewart has been the political voice of a younger generation (a 2012 study by the Pew Research Center showed that nearly 40 percent of The Daily Show’s viewers were between the age of 18 and 29), presenting the news in a way that is not only accessible to all in its simplicity and entertainment value, but also in a manner that mocks the way news is presented in a sensational and biased manner by other news corporations.
The news corporations that Stewart so effortlessly enjoyed mocking, mainly CNN and Fox News, often criticized the fact that he used the guise of being a comedian to present the news in a way that pushed his own agenda. And to an extent they are right, because this comedic news show presented the news in a far more accurate way than either of these networks could have hoped.
Stewart has expanded his own agenda, and it is an agenda of informing his viewers in an accurate manner, while packaging the major issues of today in a way that is accessible to all of us while pointing out their absurdities at the same time.
In a 2007 study by the Pew Research Center, viewers of The Daily Show and its spin off, The Colbert Report, were named as the most knowledgable. 54 percent of it’s viewers were considered very knowledgeable compared to CNN’s 41 percent and Fox News’ 35 percent.
A 2009 online survey by Time also named Stewart as America’s most trusted newscaster, with Stewart winning a whopping 44 percent of the vote. So yes, Stewart is more than a comedian, he has simply used comedy to create a news show that is the most trusted and most accurate in the United States.
But beyond that, he has been more than a comedian to many of his viewers. Instead, he has used comedy to present facts and analysis in an extremely effective and accessible manner. His comedic style of presenting his ideas helped indicate not only the ridiculous aspects of America’s political system and its news sources but also the absurdities of events going on around the world, without over sensationalizing them.
Looking to the future, Stewart’s legacy needs to be continued. It has already been expanded by the creation of similar shows such as the Colbert Report. But Stewart’s way of presenting the news needs to be more widespread. When broken down, this means newscasters presenting the news in a way to connect to its viewers. This would be the alternative to presenting in a way that seeks to gain more viewers and sensationalizes events in a way that either inaccurately pushes their own agenda, or unrealistically portrays events in order to entertain.
As for Stewart, my dreams of him making a run for the 2016 presidency will almost definitely come unfounded, but there is no doubt that he will have continued success in whatever he tries to do next, which will most likely be some form of part-time political analysis.
But while looking to the future provides a certain sense of entertainment, I personally want to try my best to enjoy the present, and by that I mean the last few months we have left of Stewart’s nightly brilliance. I want to savor the last chapter of a man who will undoubtedly go down as a revolutionary in the way he presented the news in his unique way and (for what it’s worth) in my mind the best newscaster the United States has seen over the last 16 years.