This is likely a case of correlation, not causation, which is why I am doubtful that Stewart has left any real mark on journalism. He has been the perfect poster child for the smug age of outrage we live in. Real conversations have become harder and harder, because who wants to talk to someone who is pointing and laughing at them? Worse, many real journalists and far too many people at large have no idea that is what they are doing.
This is how so many people have come to believe that Stewart is somehow nonpartisan. This belief boggles the minds of the majority of conservatives. After all, when Stephen Colbert launched the “conservative” counterpoint to “The Daily Show” he was obviously playing a clown. Stewart never was. In fact, the depth of Stewart’s sincerity was on display for his entire tenure at “The Daily Show”—perhaps never more so than at his bizarre rally at the National Mall which is still one of the stranger events in recent American political history.
When rumors circulated recently that NBC News had seriously considered putting Stewart at the helm of “Meet the Press,” something clicked. The fanciful debates about how and to what extent “The Daily Show” was changing the news basically shut down. From almost every corner there was a sense that this had gone too far. That an important news-gathering organization had even considered the possibility putting Stewart in charge honestly seemed to shake the industry. Perhaps it was at that moment that Stewart’s show ran out of steam and had to go. The parody had almost become the real, the map had almost become the terrain.