Jon Stewart's Media Legacy

With the announcement this week that Jon Stewart will be leaving Comedy Central’s Daily Show, the chattering classes are dissecting his legacy. So let us join the chatter…

Many have observed that Stewart was the source of news for Millennials. Many have commented on the careers he helped launch the careers of some very talented comedians, among them Steve Carell, Lewis Black, Kristen Schall, Josh Gad, Rob Corddry, Samantha Bee, and John Oliver and Stephen Colbert.

Those last two in particular, Oliver and Colbert went on to successfully twist the current events satire/parody “fake news” format that Stewart pioneered.

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Jon Stewart Teaches Media Literacy

I always tell the young people I meet who are interested in a career in journalism or public relations that some of the best training they’ll get is to watch Comedy Central, specifically because of Jon Stewart.

While Stewart and his disciples used satire and parody to expose the truth (from their point of view) of current events, their use of parody and satire also exposed the truth about the delivery of news.

By magnifying, embellishing and lampooning the conventions of the news business–the overuse of graphics, the manipulative emotional music, the abuse of the scrolling ticker, the cadence of the on-air reporter–he essentially reverse-engineered the news and laid those conventions bare. Once pointed out, those conventions, conceits and tricks of the trade stood out like a clown at an actuaries convention and became obvious.

What Jon Stewart and Colbert and Oliver have done more effectively than any college professor could hope to do is teach a generation of Americans media literacy.

And that, in this age when anyone is media, is not just a good thing, it’s essential training.

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