Moment Of Zen: The Legacy Jon Stewart Leaves To Future Journalists


Last semester, my journalism professor was leading a broadcast news lecture when he turned to the class and told us to be wary of improvising onscreen, particularly in live shots.

I was not a broadcast journalism major myself, but I still remember smirking, thinking of Steve Carell’s hilarious and famous scene as a loose-lipped anchor in "Bruce Almighty.”

The lecture itself was timely, falling around the same period in September when a certain reporter quit live on the air, accompanied by a provocative four-letter word and a metaphorically-dropped mic heard 'round the lower 48.

But, reporters rarely unload F-bombs on live television, and my professor’s warning wasn’t rooted in the fiction of Hollywood.

It was in acknowledgement of Comedy Central’s "The Daily Show," hosted by Jon Stewart.

I can’t remember life before ‘The Daily Show" — I was a child when it premiered – but I do remember that class because it was the first time I was seriously cautioned against ending up on the wrong end of Stewart’s skewer.

Since then, I’ve heard the warning swapped many times amongst my peers pursuing a career in journalism, and that should be the best news you’ll read all day.

The existence of "The Daily Show" plants a little seed of doubt in the back of journalistic minds, a fear that didn’t exist for reporters starting school 20 years ago.

Though it isn’t the only answer to questions about what journalism is defined as, or what it should be, it’s a step in the right direction.

"The Daily Show" isn’t benign. With the creation of the 24-hour news cycle that’s so often spent speculating and arguing behind polished desks and expensive lighting, the longevity of mock news programs like "The Daily Show" are absolutely necessary.

The media is abysmal in its failure of transparency, and its subsequent loss of public trust that stems from that.

It has refused to keep itself accountable, and so, for nearly two decades, Jon Stewart has done it for them.

While it’s true Stewart has mostly captured the bleeding hearts of liberals in our nation, it’s my opinion that the legacy Stewart is leaving behind is a bipartisan one.

Though the show will get a new host and probably continue to poke fun at the Republican party, Stewart has started a revolution that transcends political positions.

He has given the public an avenue to read between the lines, and rightfully earned the trust of millions. He’s also made it clear he understands the responsibility of free speech communicated to the masses.

In an emotional post-9/11 monologue, Stewart said:

We sit in the back and throw spitballs – but never forgetting that it is a luxury in this country that allows us to do that … it’s the difference between closed and open. The difference between free and burdened.

If Jon Stewart’s legacy is anything, it is the reminder to America that it should be the media’s responsibility to be accountable to its consumers, and to exercise due diligence in its journalistic practices.

It's a call to do better, to be better and to sort out our priorities because the media’s primary concern should not be in skyrocketing ratings, but in respect and regard for the democratic process that breathes life into it in the first place.