Neil Kandalgaonkar

hacker, maker of things

Jon Stewart and journalism

If you think the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart is doing journalism, you don’t know what journalism is.

It may not be your fault, especially if you are young. In your lifetime, journalists are untrained monkeys asking uninformed questions of celebrities. Stewart also does that, so maybe it seems similar.

Stewart is a comedian. That’s a very specific job and it’s not all about laughs. Seinfeld called comedy “the truth, only faster”. It’s about seeing absurdity and pointing it out in a specific way that makes you realize your own doubts, uncertainty, fears even. It makes you laugh sometimes and cry other times.

Stewart can see absurdity, and point it out, but he’s not doing journalism and he would have no talent for it.

Journalism would be something like becoming an expert in derivatives and risk and, based on that knowledge, asking CEOs of banks questions, rooting out hidden problems in published balance sheets, maybe even investigative reporting. Here you aren’t hobnobbing with celebrities, you are developing contacts in the records department of various firms, interviewing recently fired or retired employees who have an axe to grind, analyzing disclosed activities of lobbyists, developing your own sources within Congress, and just generally pursuing a story with dogged and grim determination until you finally piece together the truth. And then, having the credibility to fearlessly communicate that to an audience, advertisers be damned.

Stewart cannot do any of that. But he can point to the lack of it.

A version of this was posted to Reddit’s r/politics..