What will have the greatest impact?
- Brian Williams “misremembering.”
- Jon Stewart leaving The Daily Show.
- Bob Simon dying.
- David Carr dying.
While the deaths are a serious blow and Williams’ crime heinous, I vote for Stewart’s departure. According to State of the Media, the average network news viewer is 53. Elsewhere 60 Minutes skews the same. Those people will miss Simon and maybe even Williams, but the networks will find other anchors, etc. Carr may be less replaceable because of his position at the NYTimes. His writing and reporting are priceless. Again, the audience was limited — to regular Times readers and media denizens.
Fellow journalists observed that long before Williams had a memory lapse, Carr had far more serious problems. (See The Night of the Gun in which he does some reporting on himself). People seemed more forgiving because his failures of memory were fueled by cocaine and alcohol. Sooo, it’s OK to lie, especially to oneself, when one is addled by substances. I suspect the forgiveness has to do with the brilliance of Carr’s writing and his amazing rehabilitation.
Why pick Stewart’s departure as the most impactful event? He continues to have the greatest influence on the demographic that pays the least attention to the news. He holds powerful people to account in a way that “traditional,” “main stream” media used to. He also offers cultural commentary that reaches a huge audiences. Over the years, he has launched or ratcheted up the careers of people like Stephen Colbert and Lewis Black.
The Daily Show of course did not originate with Stewart, and it will no doubt find a suitable replacement, but I’m betting that no one will ever again do righteous indignation with a large helping of compassion and huge doses of humor as Stewart has for so many years.