Political Journalism in the Wake of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert: Assessing the Lasting Legacy of "the Daily Show" and "the Colbert Report" on American Culture
In the United States, the influence of late night, political satire television shows like Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show,” and Stephen Colbert’s “The Colbert Report,” have opened up the discussion not only of the boundaries between news and entertainment, but have brought into relief the larger question of the connections between popular culture and political discourse more broadly, especially for younger Americans. For example, there are several studies that have found that many younger Americans get their news about politics from “The Daily Show,” and in 2012, the Pew Research Center for People and the Press found that 39% of “The Daily Show’s” viewers were the demographic group of young people between 18 and 29 years old.
While both Colbert and Stewart have left their respective shows this year, they have made an indelible mark not only on the way in which we now view “real” news as opposed to “fake” news, but more generally, how we can begin to think about the possibilities for political journalism, not only in the United States, but in other countries that have created similar satirical programming. This paper will take the occasion of the retirement of Colbert and Stewart from these programs to explore whether these kinds of programs have made a lasting impact on the genres of news and comedy, and how in a media environment characterized increasing economic consolidation and the celebration of neoliberal subjects, these programs might point a way toward a more engaged form of advocacy journalism. I will also explore how these shows, by having politicians routinely as guests, changed how Americans view politicians and other political figures. Finally, I will explore whether and how these satirical political comedies influenced the increasingly polarized discourse that characterizes the landscape of the United States electorate.