Jon Stewart, John Oliver, Russell Howard, Have I Got News For You, Charlie Brooker: What do they all have in common? Answer: They write, investigate and discuss the news in the most honest way in today’s mad 24 hour news world.
The invention of rolling news is almost as old as I am, but the American land of superlatives used in them are seeping into our own news channels and broadcasts. Fox is a well-known purveyor of the OTT in the way they impart the news using shock and fear to tell their audiences the daily news. They are tabloid TV at their worst. But look at the work of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”, the spin-off show “The Colbert Report” and “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” and how they have approached journalism in the last few years and you will find that these comedy shows are relaying the news more openly, honestly and in-depth than any of the US channels. From racial shootings, stop and search, ISIS, Ebola, Congress, Scottish Referendum, Indian Elections, Fukushima and many other top stories have been discussed and presented at length.
In the UK, Russell Howard’s show started last night and mixed silly humour with some great observations on important elements in the news agenda. Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe (Which needs to be on again) is another great example of looking at the stories succinctly and intelligently. HIGNFY is also very clever at using humour to point out the mistakes and problematic policies through both Ian Hislop’s contributions and the great writing team behind each presenter. From David Frost and team on “That was the week that was” to Rory Bremner, Mark Thomas to “The News Quiz” we have a tradition of honest satire – but now the Americans (or in Oliver’s case, Brits abroad) are now carrying that torch on and making it even brighter.
For many young people in America The Daily Show is their main source of news – mostly because they find it trustworthy. John Oliver has been heralded in the US for his team’s journalistic approach – one that he, Colbert and Stewart all laugh off claiming to only be interested in comedy. But to push this aside so easily is missing the importance of satire and honest reporting of news events. We live in a world where the politicians and many in the media are happy to extol the emotion of fear: Fear of contagious diseases; Fear of terrorism; Fear of Paedophiles; Fear of being under surveillance; Fear of Racial Profiling – the list goes on. Rather than Kay Burley screaming “Run for the Hills” on Sky News or in the US the daily bullshit of Hannity, O’Reilly and the rest of the Fox Fear brigade we need calm and clarity.
Why do we have to rely on comedians – and I love all these shows I’ve mentioned – to deliver us the real news? For my money Channel 4 news is still the closest we get to that in the UK – while at times they push the boundaries of serious into awkwardly funny – see Krishnan Guru-Murthy’s interview with Richard Ayoade below.
It’s time the traditional TV news paired back all the ridiculous “Day Today” music and graphics, and explained the news and the reality for those affected by the stories. We don’t need tweets, vox pops and so-called experts – we need the truth and we need it without the ludicrous superlatives that go with it. Otherwise we will think that comedians are the only ones serious about the news.