Stewart's Fox Interview: Media Sensationalism in a Sound Bite


Monday morning saw “You’re Insane,” emblazoned on headlines throughout the media following Jon Stewart’s now infamous appearance on Fox News Sunday. The headline, and many stories about the issue, failed to mention the constructive debate on media bias between Stewart and Fox host Chris Wallace. The sensationalistic news bias has created a media industry that focuses more on the bottom line than their civic duty to inform the masses.

Our society is spoiled. We are constantly inundated with information, and news is readily available on the internet or on television. With this information seemingly at our fingertips at any given moment, you would suspect that our society would be better informed and educated. This is false.

The mainstream media has long been considered as a vehicle for the liberal agenda, and while that might be true, the most damaging media bias for society is that of sensationalism.

Stewart, in his conversation with Wallace, attempted to elaborate on this issue. Mainstream media has a duty to citizens to provide us with adequate information and provide discussion to bring about civil discourse. Instead, the focus shifted onto sensationalist stories that will undoubtedly sell papers or spike ratings.

Sensationalist stories like former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s Twitter fiasco and the Sarah Palin bus tour will not improve our civilization, yet mainstream media continues to beat these stories to death. The Pew Research Center found that Weiner accounted for 17% of news coverage the week of June 6, while Libya and the economy — much bigger policy issues — accounted for 3% and 11%, respectively. 

The implementation of the 24-hour news network has done little to alleviate the problem. Outlets like Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN are praying on the fears of viewers while simultaneously pushing their ideological political agendas; MSNBC pushing the liberal agenda while, in the words of Wallace, Fox News provides the “counter point.”

In 2004, Stewart pleaded with CNN’s Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala to stop political theater and discuss real issues. “What you are doing is partisan hackery... you have a responsibility to the public discourse and you fail miserably,” Stewart said in the interview.

It is sad to know that with the endless amount of knowledge and information available to us, many turn to a comedian to provide some sort of poignant comment on the day’s news. The Daily Show is not a news program, nor will it ever be; it is a satirical look at the absurdity in mainstream media and politics. Though it does tend to lean to the left, it does not overtly push an ideological political agenda. Stewart is not attempting to persuade individuals with his nightly barbs, he is simply trying to get the viewer thinking.

Stewart and his team of writers are laughing at society, and most of us are too dumb to notice it. We buy into the sensationalist media bias, the political theater that is 24-hour news networks, and the notion of “if it bleeds, it leads.”

It is not the liberal bias that is ruining our society and diluting the media industry. It is the bias toward sensationalism and conflict.

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