Comedy Central Becoming a Real Player in News?

Posted by Justyn Makarewycz on March 13, 2009

Comedy Central describes itself as “your source for Comedians, Funny Videos, TV Shows, Games and Jokes.”  I don’t buy it, and I think they’re pulling the wool over our eyes.  “News” will probably need to be added to the list, because media historians – wherever they are – may point to last night’s tête-à-tête between John Stewart and Jim Cramer as Comedy Central’s official entry into serious news media.

I think all viewers originally looked to the Colbert Report and Daily Show as entertaining avenues of comic relief, a way to avoid reality for an hour.  But over the past two years, these shows have proved much more serious in nature and format, and deserving of real journalistic and thought-leadership credit.

Their guest line-ups aren’t from the B or C level, but include many A-level movers and shakers.  They express real perspective and assessment that viewers have traditionally come to trust only from anchors on like BBC, CNN, CNBC, PBS, etc.  Major network anchors even respond to Colbert and Stewart with seriousness and thoughtfulness in their reporting.  And most importantly, Colbert and Stewart get conversations and interviews to the point where even viewers watching at home feel like they’re in the middle of an extremely awkward conversation at a party – nonetheless grateful someone asked the question.  Sometimes it’s under the guise of sarcasm, but the intention is unquestionably real in nature.

Without a doubt, Stewart’s Thursday-night blaming of Jim Cramer for the faults of CNBC’s financial programming over these past years was far fetched, yet his ability to force Cramer to take responsibility for his own messages and his own show was honest, journalistic, and very newsworthy.  Colbert has done so equally in his show over the years.  Isn’t this the way we’ve always expected from journalism, especially in times like these?  I definitely didn’t expect Comedy Central to compete with the big boys.

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