On Tuesday night we learned that Brian Williams is suspended and Jon Stewart is retiring.
With that, a giant chasm is wedged into one era, and another one ends entirely. Two fixtures of news reporting, in the blink of an eye, are leaving their shows, one never to return again.
It’s a truly a sad day for American media.
The Williams suspension is not remotely shocking. The fallout of his war story embellishment was too great, and NBC had to act quickly and harshly. What’s most startling is how rapidly everything occurred. It was just six days ago when Williams admitted his mistake live on air. In less than a week, he announced his leave, NBC said it would investigate, and now he’s been disciplined.
The Stewart news, on the other hand, is a kick to the gut.
For 15 years, Jon Stewart has safeguarded American broadcast journalism. His watchdog responsibilities in calling out reporters who say imbecilic and misleading things has enlightened the American public. His satirical approach is designed to entertain, but for so many, for so long, it also informed and educated.
No one can ever do it the way he did.
Hes just 52, but probably wealthy enough that he never needs to work again. It remains to be seen what his intentions are for the remainder of his life, but we can only hope he decides to do something that keeps him connected with the American public.
David Letterman, Craig Ferguson, Stephen Colbert all either have left or will imminently leave their longstanding positions in late night variety television. We’ve officially entered a new era. One dominated by Jimmy Fallon, whose innovative use of social media and ability to shape popular culture has changed the game.
Stewart’s demographic is mostly young people. Perhaps he wanted to get out before he became viewed as an ancient who’s too old for his antics. Who knows. But he will be missed.
Comedy Central should not replace him. They should recreate the show with another anchor, but the Daily Show should be retired.
Ironically, Stewart’s most recent show was about Williams. He was rightfully hard on him, but criticized mainstream news for being so critical about this, while failing to apply the same scrutiny about other elements of the Iraq War when they had the chance.
You can’t quantify all the good that Stewart has done for this country, but his role in helping us understand pertinent news topics that we otherwise may never would have known about cannot be understated. And most important of all, we trusted him.
He brought honesty into the news.
And for that, we owe him our gratitude.