Three years into his time behind the Last Week Tonight desk, John Oliver has evolved and put his own spin on the comedic journalism genre that he was founded by his former boss Jon Stewart. Oliver’s brand of comedy and his show in particular has taken the rare step of looking to inform first, while looking to amuse and humor second. Though it’s a relatively simple flip of the wildly popular format, given Oliver’s natural intelligence, and global knowledge, the series, and John, have taken the cultural place left by Stewart’s exit from The Daily Show. And though Stewart’s namesake show is still running over at Comedy Central, it’s a general agreement amongst most viewers that the baton was passed, or taken, by the man at HBO. But that’s besides the point.
This article is instead about the wonderful little explanatory segment from last night’s episode of Last Week Tonight. The topic of exploration was Journalism in its modern form. If you haven’t yet seen it, give the above clip a chance before you delve into this article, which will basically just expand on what was said.
In essence, John Oliver makes three main points that are widely agreed upon as having directly killed informative journalism in the digital age.
As users have begun to battle with the concept of paying for the material they consume on their phones, or their films & television, individuals have been far less enthusiastic about paying for their news. Maybe there are too many sources, maybe it’s the lack of a simple payment structure, but as John shows, a great deal of our Internet news sites and cable television programs are not themselves partaking in any groundbreaking research, but instead are sourcing or repackaging of local news and newspaper stories.
The second reason for the drastic decline of informative journalism is the broken revenue model. As news consumption has shifted, news organizations have been unable to match the drastic loss of print advertisement revenue with the relatively minimal increase in digital advertisement revenue. And thirdly, the increasing digital demands placed upon journalists who formerly were solely responsible for quality research and writing, instead must play mini-celebrity and clicks-chaser for their material to find any sort of relevance on the utterly flooded Internet, begging the question, if a journalist writes an article and no one comments on it or shares it, did it really exist? Kidding. It did.
Now, these three functions are nothing new, as it has become a bit of a truism to say that modern journalism is simply click-bait nonsense. Yet, as we mourn the loss of newspapers as the shepherds and defenders of truth and of relevant news topics and the importance of an unbiased informative source on world occurrences, what strikes me as most odd is that lack of alternative concepts or ideas on how to save the industry.
The real trouble in this regards, in my opinion, is that though most prophecies in regards to the news industry tend to focus on cries that the end is nigh, far less focus on alternative suggestions as to what might save the industry. I might have a few ideas I plan to write about in future pieces that offer a solid and legitimate alternative approach, but I’d like to hear some of your ideas before I put my own down on paper.
However, with that in mind, what are some suggestions readers might help adapt the news industry to the digital age?