Jon Stewart tells CNN that media is too focused on ‘conflict’ stories like ‘the Karen yelling in the store’

More reporting should be fact-centred and less focused on clicks, argues Stewart

John Bowden
Washington DC
Sunday 17 October 2021 20:00
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Jon Stewart criticises US political media

Onetime The Daily Show host Jon Stewart joined CNN on Sunday to discuss the US political media, and condemned what he called a focus on conflict instead of real reporting and facts.

Speaking with Jake Tapper on State of The Union, Stewart argued that the majority of mainstream news coverage of issues such as mask-wearing and vaccines focused on conflicts and spectacles resulting from the division around those issues rather than the facts that could present helpful knowledge for readers or viewers.

“Like, how many times have you seen stories about ‘the battle over masks’, that’s the ‘Karen’ yelling in the store and the people throwing them out, and how many stories have we seen about the efficacy of masks?” he asked.

“There are some, but the overwhelming majority of stories seek to expose the conflict lines.”

He also singled out Politico for a supposed headline that he said exemplified how the media focused on political consequences rather than real-world issues, referring to a piece he had seen published amid the chaos that occurred as Kabul fell to the Taliban in August.

“I saw a great headline in Politico, as Afghanistan was descending into chaos in that final week, and the headline in Politico was ... it said, “Why Afghanistan may not matter in the midterms”, and the subhead was, “And why it might.”

It couldn’t immediately be verified whether that headline ran on Politico; as quoted; it was not immediately locatable through Google. The Independent has reached out to Politico’s editors to determine whether it truly ran on the site or any of its newsletters.

The headline as quoted by Stewart did bear some similarity to one that ran in congressional news blog Roll Call the same week: “How Afghanistan will (and won’t) matter in 2022 midterms.”

Stewart is a longtime critic of the mainstream news media’s focus on divisions in American society and spectacle over substance. He famously clashed with two pundits, Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala, then hosts of CNN’s Crossfire, in 2004 and eviscerated the two hosts for the quality of their political debates and coverage of current events. The show was cancelled less than a year later.

After retiring from Comedy Central’s flagship satirical newscast The Daily Show in 2015, Mr Stewart worked with HBO on an animated project that never made it to air. He later joined Apple TV, and now hosts a current affairs talk programme, The Problem with Jon Stewart.

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