Jon Stewart: the prototype postmodern news anchor

I was paying a bill on Friday when the clerk — a bright young man in his late 20s — began talking about how the news makes him feel depressed (the world and its denizens are, to me, a rolling focus group). He then made this remarkable statement: “The only news I really watch is Jon Stewart. I mean, it’s all the same thing, but at least he’s entertaining.”

So this fellow (and I imagine his friends) avoid the “real” news programs in favor of The Daily Show, where he feels he gets “the news” but in a more palatable form.

If you want to better understand why the show’s audience feels that way, The New York Times has an excellent feature article on Stewart today: “Is Jon Stewart the Most Trusted Man in America?

For all its eviscerations of the administration, “The Daily Show” is animated not by partisanship but by a deep mistrust of all ideology. A sane voice in a noisy red-blue echo chamber, Mr. Stewart displays an impatience with the platitudes of both the right and the left and a disdain for commentators who, as he made clear in a famous 2004 appearance on CNN’s “Crossfire,” parrot party-line talking points and engage in knee-jerk shouting matches. He has characterized Democrats as “at best Ewoks,” mocked Mr. Obama for acting as though he were posing for “a coin” and hailed sardonically for “10 years of making even people who agree with you cringe.”

To me, Jon Stewart has always epitomized the classic postmodern news anchor. Deconstruction is his M.O., transparency is his core value, and participation as one outside the velvet rope is his perspective. Comedy is simply the path he and his writers take to enter the minds of their audience. Night-after-night, he continues to demonstrate that “real” news anchors are, perhaps, just a little too full of themselves, and in so doing, Stewart adds to the general mistrust that the people formerly known as the audience have of the media.

I don’t know if Jon Stewart is the most trusted man in America, but I’d be a fool if I didn’t seriously consider the possibility.


  1. I find “The Daily Show” & “The Colbert Report” to be both entertaining and informative. However, I also believe they complement the more serious news you receive both nationally and locally and therefore bring a form of balance to individuals who desire to stay informed yet entertained. I don’t think one is better than the other just different and ultimately add to a better informed public.

  2. Jon Stewart also gives us an opportunity to watch the News as a family. My 16 and 19 year old daughters will watch The Daily Show with me and my wife, there is no way the 4 of us can sit through the dull ringing of the regular news.

    Both my girls have said what the young man told you, the regular News just depresses them, and I can not disagree.

  3. Ron Mexico says

    Stewart’s equal opportunity deconstructionism is good not only because he deconstructs but because his deconstruction actually allows for the reframing of the dialogue in a more immediate, and, dare I say, truthful way.

    A few unrelated thoughts: Our postmodern paradigms are indispensable. However, they are intellectually intoxicating. People with little understanding of our intellectual history are easily lead to become drunk on its excesses.

    Beware of Postmodern aesthetics. Absurdity as an object of worship is no absurdity at all. As A. Camus said, the absurd has meaning only insofar as it is not agreed to. The intellectual landscape, this “desert” as he might have said — when brought into the light of day as a religion is a mockery of oneself and nothing else.


  1. […] Jon Stewart: the prototype postmodern news anchor Really? I thought USA Today was already “news-lite.” Some state of affairs this is. […]

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