It took a comedian for me to see television news as something other than a joke.
Jon Stewart took over hosting duties of “The Daily Show” in 1999, but I took little notice of his work. No one took him seriously as a newscaster. It was not until the Sept. 11attacks in 2001 that myself and the rest of America began to see something special about what Stewart was doing.
The World Trade Center attacks and the subsequent Iraq War are what many consider to be the true birth of the 24-hour news cycle. People were glued to their television sets waiting for someone to come out and say that everything was all right, that the worst was over.
What we got instead was constant fear-mongering and sensationalism. The networks were desperate to keep viewers from jumping to their competitors; they were more than willing to use terror as a weapon to do it, not unlike the men they were warning us about.
While everyone else was making a mockery of the news, Stewart, the man who was being paid to do exactly that, did the opposite instead. He sat before the nation and, choked by tears, he managed to say, “Any fool can blow something up. Any fool can destroy. But to see these guys, these firefighters and these policemen and people from all over the country, literally with buckets, rebuilding. . . that’s extraordinary. And that’s why we have already won.”
The “real” newscasters had become fakes, and the “fake” newscaster was offering us something real. He was offering hope.
This same pattern has gone on throughout Jon Stewart’s career on “The Daily Show,” but sadly, his tenure there is finally coming to an end. What is not coming to an end is the hope he brought with him.
Stewart will primarily be remembered as a satirist, but what we must never forget are his moments of startling sincerity within a landscape that has been robbed of such reality. Stewart has gone from being an easily dismissed comedian to being perhaps the most prominent voice in television news. His voice echoed longer and louder than any other newscaster when our nation needed it most.
The last laugh is truly his.