Jon Stewart to leave “The Daily Show”

Washburn student Jack Vandeleuv watches “The Daily Show” on his cell phone.

Katie Wade is a sophomore history and mass media major.

Last Tuesday, Feb. 10, Jon Stewart announced that he would be taking his leave from “The Daily Show” later this year. In his announcement he noted that while he is still working out the details of his departure, he has a lot of ideas of what to do with his future free-time.

“I’m going to have dinner on a school night with my family who, I have heard from multiple sources, are lovely people,” said Stewart.

Stewart has been hosting “The Daily Show” since 1998.

Satire has always played a pivotal role in news media throughout history, yet in recent years, it has strongly taken form in alternative news programs hosted by comedians like Stewart.

There is a current perception that younger generations are turning away from traditional news sources and more towards programs like “The Daily Show.” But according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2012, just 39 percent of the show’s nightly viewers are between the ages of 18 and 29, that is about 780,000 millennials, or 1.5 percent of the total millennial population.

Yet, on that 1.5 percent, Stewart has had a wide range of impact, mainly on how millennials perceive the news media and process news information.

Maria Stover, professor of mass media, said that while impact is hard to measure, Stewart’s influence can be observed in how millennials have started reaching for more sources of information instead of just one traditional source.

“I think that there is indication that people who actually watch the show might be a little more informed,” said Stover, “because they choose to get their information from different sources. And this, to me, is a lot more important than any other impact…the reality is you don’t get your information from one source anymore. Nobody does. Especially for this age demographic.”

Stover also noted that it is important to keep in mind that “The Daily Show” was always intended to be satirical and that Stewart never tried to be a real anchor. This can be where the definition of “fake news” gets a little confusing for viewers. The news itself is not faked, but the way in which the show portrays the news, its platform, is. Stewart acted more as a court jester of sorts, mocking actual news anchors, and in this is where his true value lies.

“What do court jesters do? They entertain the court,” said Stover. “But they are usually the ones who can get away with pointing out uncomfortable truth because they’ll put them in the guise of humor, satire, and then everybody would laugh at those things. But if you were to say those same things in a serious manner in, say, the place of the king, you’d probably end up dead.”

In a recent interview with CNN, comedian John Fugelsang discussed the power of political satire.

“We’re in an age where we trade information for access,” said Fugelsang. “And all too often in some media outlets, they don’t want to ask the tough questions because they’re afraid of losing the booking. By being a comedy show first, you can take those on because you care about the truth and getting the laugh more than getting the return booking. And that’s why the show had so much power. That’s why they were fearless.”

It is a combination of that fearlessness and strength in comedy that won the hearts of so many viewers.

Jack Vandeleuv, sophomore English major with a writing emphasis, said he has been watching the show longer than he’s known or cared about politics.

“Actually, I think it’s what made me politically aware in the first place,” said Vandeleuv. “I’m sure many people watch ‘The Daily Show’ because it’s funny, and for no other reason. But for me it’s more than that. Cleverly written satire gets at important issues and keeps your attention in a way that straight news can’t. It’s a rhetorical guitar solo, the political equivalent of a finishing move.”

Vandeleuv said he’s seen every episode since 2010.

Since its first airing, “The Daily Show” has featured many faces as correspondents and members of the production team who also went on to become big names in satire and comedy including Stephen Colbert, Kristen Schaal, John Oliver and Steve Carrell. During the announcement of his departure, Stewart said that he does not think he will miss being on television, but rather he will miss coming in to work with the people of “The Daily Show.”

In his announcement, Stewart decided to forgo the farewell speech until its appropriate time, and opted, instead, to simply say this:

“It’s been an absolute privilege. It’s been the honor of my professional life. And I thank you for watching it, for hating watching it, whatever reason you were tuning in for. You get in this business with the idea that maybe you have a point of view and something to express. And to receive feedback from that is the greatest feeling I could ask for. And I thank you.”