I just read a fascinating piece on Jon Stewart in Esquire magazine. Although the article is a little downbeat, tracing the evolution of Jon Stewart from someone poking fun at media personalities to becoming one himself (with all the “selling out” baggage that implies), I found the most interesting line to be buried way near the end.
“If somebody wanted to start a twenty-four-hour news network that would focus on corruption and governance as opposed to the politics of it, do you think that that would have a chance to be successful and change the way debate occurs?”
Huh. Now isn’t that an interesting idea? Sure, in Esquire, they portray it as one more step in the de-Jon Stewartification of Jon Stewart himself, but I think the idea’s got legs.
I recently (and to much furor) postulated on Facebook that there was very little difference between sports journalism and entertainment journalism, and I made an allusion to TMZ that drove every sports fan I know absolutely nuts with rage.
Recently, though, I’ve been thinking that a lot of journalism, period, is reduced to the common dramatic elements that I was calling out in sports and entertainment journalism. Political coverage, for example, is often limited to breathless coverage of what chances a bill has to be passed, not whether it would be a good law, or what its consequences would be.
I’d be curious to see if a news show (let alone network) that devoted itself to covering governing rather than covering politicking would be able to make a go of it.
Telling stories would be harder. You’d have to hire really great reporters, able to craft compelling stories out of difficult raw material. You’d have to pay them well and you’d have to give them the time and resources to cover stories in the depth that they require. Are there enough viewers and advertisers to make that feasible?
I don’t know. But I hope so. And I think Stewart might be the only person I can think of with the juice to get it done.
Read the whole profile: Jon Stewart and the Burden of History – Esquire.