An Ode To Jon Stewart and College Journalism

Traditionally, Executive Editors write their final Editor’s Column by taking a look back on their time with The Maroon-News, reflecting on the highs and lows, and presenting a nice, some might say clichéd, wrap up of their college journalistic careers. With no offense intended to those who came before me, I want to use this opportunity somewhat differently. While being on the Maroon-News has been the activity at Colgate that I have been involved with the longest (all the way back to the pre-orientation program at the start of my first year), and I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience, I want to take this time to thank “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

In February, Jon Stewart, host of “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central since 1999, announced he would be leaving later this year. Although the show describes itself as a fake news program, highlighting and making fun of current events, recent news, prominent figures, etc., its success has been unparalleled in its form. For me, “The Daily Show” has been a medium of journalism that I hold to the highest standard, even though it is first and foremost a comedy show. My generation doesn’t watch “the evening news” like that of my parents. My peers and I need shorter sound bites that are more attention-grabbing, since we were raised in a world of multiple inputs from multiple devices in a 24-hour news cycle, where anything could be deemed “newsworthy.” What “The Daily Show” has been able to do in such a profound way is recognize this and create an entertaining way to separate important world news from the background noise. It implicitly understands the difference between “noise” and “signal.” Stewart allows the marriage of smart reporting (talented researchers) and comedy. For many today, his show stands as the most important channel through which people get their news. For some, it is the only channel.

Some have criticized Stewart for not conducting in depth, hard-hitting questions with some of his more esteemed guests, but the show responds by saying that they do not have any journalistic responsibility and their duty as comedians is to simply provide entertainment. On the other hand, they have done some very in-depth reporting and more intense interviews (notably the one Stewart did with CNBC’s Cramer). While Stewart often doesn’t pull punches, I think that this actually fosters a unique position for the show and its writers; because of their very stature as non-journalists, they are not restricted by the rules. When the news of the world got so bad that it was almost comical, Stewart was there and didn’t let an opportunity sli56p by. I watched him interview influential figures across a broad spectrum, including but not limited to presidents of the United States, presidents of other countries, governors, senators, congressmen, mayors, journalists, actors and actresses, authors, musicians, athletes and businessmen. I watched their coverage of the 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 presidential election seasons and saw Stewart use jokes to highlight hypocrisy. I also saw him break down on screen following 9/11 as he addressed his studio audience in New York City. What makes Stewart’s style so unique is that he uses humor to advance intellectual engagement and debate – and it is so difficult to use humor to find truth.

With my time at The Maroon-News coming to a close, I can’t help highlighting where my interest stemmed from. Saying I grew up watching “The Daily Show” doesn’t cut it – Jon Stewart was the premier influence for my passion for journalism. He showed me that news can be cool, humor helps and the importance of staying informed. Being surrounded by The Maroon-News, including the staff who share these journalistic values and showed their commitment to it, has made the last four years a pleasure. I will miss the show, and The Maroon-News, very much.