Why Jon Stewart matters more than Brian Williams

Since Vietnam, our faith in institutions, including the media, has wanted. That’s true of almost all institutions, but, the rise of the Internet, cable news, and alternative media, meant that nobody had to wait until six-o’clock to get the information about the world – a fact that rendered the role of network anchorman significantly less important. (If you’ve seen the Will Ferrell movie, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, you’re aware that, even in local media markets, newsreaders once enjoyed all the perks of celebrity. But that came to a crashing end along with the decade of the Seventies.)

Another factor is that, in recent years, political coverage and entertainment have inexorably merged, and the lines became increasingly blurred. (Consider President Obama’s recent interview with a YouTube sensation, famous for drinking cereal out of a bathtub.) We cover politicians now the way ESPN covers sports and TMZ covers celebrity gossip – and the politicians, responding to incentives, act increasingly like celebrities, too. We do it for ratings and clicks – and because it’s more fun. But in the long run, we, as well as our audience, become increasingly cynical.

Is it any wonder that a fake newsman honest enough to admit he’s fake – who eschews the charade that this absurdity called “political news coverage” is somehow sacred – would ironically be viewed as more authentic than his “serious” counterpart who pretends otherwise?