When Hub Brown’s students first told him they loved “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and sometimes even relied on it for news, he was, as any responsible journalism professor would be, appalled.
Now he’s a “Daily Show” convert.
“There are days when I watch ‘The Daily Show,’ and I kind of chuckle. There are days when I laugh out loud. There are days when I stand up and point to the TV and say, ‘You’re damn right!'” says Brown, chair of the communications department at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and an associate professor of broadcast journalism.
Brown, who had dismissed the faux news show as silly riffing, got hooked during the early days of the war in Iraq, when he felt most of the mainstream media were swallowing the administration’s spin rather than challenging it. Not “The Daily Show,” which had no qualms about second-guessing the nation’s leaders. “The stock-in-trade of ‘The Daily Show’ is hypocrisy, exposing hypocrisy. And nobody else has the guts to do it,” Brown says. “They really know how to crystallize an issue on all sides, see the silliness everywhere.”
Whether lampooning President Bush’s disastrous Iraq policies or mocking “real” reporters for their credulity, Stewart and his team often seem to steer closer to the truth than traditional journalists. The “Daily Show” satirizes spin, punctures pretense and belittles bombast. When a video clip reveals a politician’s backpedaling, verbal contortions or mindless prattle, Stewart can state the obvious–ridiculing such blather as it deserves to be ridiculed–or remain silent but speak volumes merely by arching an eyebrow.
Stewart and his fake correspondents are freed from the media’s preoccupation with balance, the fixation with fairness. They have no obligation to deliver the day’s most important news, if that news is too depressing, too complicated or too boring. Their sole allegiance is to comedy.