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After Jon Stewart: Debating the future of satire and what makes a news anchor

US President Barack Obama (L) tapes an interview for the satirical television show
US President Barack Obama (L) tapes an interview for the satirical television show "Daily Show" with Jon Stewart (R) at the Harman Center for the Arts in Washington, DC, October 26, 2010.

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The world of media has been turned upside down in the last 24 hours with news that embroiled NBC news anchor Brian Williams is suspended without pay for six months and that Jon Stewart is leaving the Daily Show.

In the pantheon of trusted public figures, we’re supposed to be able to turn to network news anchors and reporters for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But as the ways in which society consumes the news has shifted towards social media and away from traditional nightly news broadcasts, the landscape of news and journalism has morphed into a blend of news and entertainment.

One on hand, the media has focused on the crisis of “trust” and “credibility” surrounding NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, amid fallout from a story that he says he “misremembered” about being in a helicopter during the Iraq war.

On the other hand, the reaction to yesterday’s announcement by Jon Stewart that he would be leaving Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” demonstrated how entrenched entertainment and satire have become for a growing group of younger Americans, for whom many such a portmanteau show is the only source of news.

As news and entertainment have slowly come together over the preceding decades, how has the role and the characteristics of a good news anchor changed? How do you decide who to trust?



Sophia McClennen, author of “Is Satire Saving our Nation? Mockery and American Politics.” She’s also a professor at Penn State University, where she directs the Center for Global Studies.

Robert Thompson, professor of television, radio, and film at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse University.