Dear god. I take a couple of days off and a large chunk of my personal media landscape decamps from the scene.
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams was suspended without pay for six months for inflating his participation while covering a war or two and other stories. Some pundits are predicting that the layoff is preliminary to his being fired.
I'm so old I remember a certain well-known media personality having done something similar 40-odd years ago – pretending he was in more danger while in a war zone than he actually was.
It was a short-lived controversy back then, didn't much affect his career (he is still around) and the internet has been whitewashed of the incident. I can't find it anywhere.
Surveys tell us that it is only us old folks who watch any of the evening network news broadcasts these days and although I don't have a lot of interest in the “penalty” NBC executives will impose on Williams for lying (that's what is), it does seem overkill compared to other public figures.
I wish the news powers that be (at every kind and type of news outlet) were as fervent when reporting the same transgression from elected officials and corporate executives as they are with a guy who, after all, just reads the news off a TelePrompTer most of the time.
Bob Simon was one of the best damned reporters of the past 50 years, doing his excellent work at 60 Minutes for the past 20 years. He was killed in an auto accident in New York City Wednesday evening at age 73.
In no manner can I say he was a friend, but I knew him slightly in the mid-1990s when he helped me with a couple of stories when I was managing editor at the then-brand new cbsnews.com website, and we also had lunch together in the cafeteria a couple of times.
He and I were the same age, born within a month of one another, and in addition to respecting him as a fine reporter, I was happy lately to know that he was among the few allowed to work past the usual sell-by date the world imposes on the majority of “older” workers.
JON STEWART ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT FROM THE DAILY SHOW
The first two are sad. This one was – still is - a gut-punch. It is astonishing how personally Stewart's announcement hit me (Vicodin for my dental surgery recovery may have contributed).
It's not your loss, I thought as the shocked and regretful reponses poured in from pundits, Congressional politicians (Republicans too), media figures, comedians and especially young people who are devoted to him.
It is not your loss, I thought. It is not the country's loss. It is MY loss. Mine more than it could possibly be for any of you, and I am bereft.
Silly, of course, but that is how it felt at first and now, a couple of days later I realize better than during all the years I have been a regular viewer how much I depend on Jon Stewart to confirm my own reactions to events (as he so frequently does) and to illuminate the political and journalistic predicaments in which we find ourselves.
Jon Stewart's contribution to truth is beyond calculation. He may have called it “fake news” but it was not. It was real news as no one else, not another single person reports it.
I was speechless when I watched the announcement. Of course, he made it funny because – well, he can't help himself. He's that good.
As he says in the announcement, Stewart's contract runs until September and maybe he will remain at his Daily Show desk until the end of year. I will be hanging on his every show until then and I already miss him for the 2016 presidential election.
The smartest media commentators among us have always known that Stewart is doing journalism, brilliant journalism, on his show but more than a few others have bristled at the comparison.
Matt Ford, taking an early shot this week at marking Stewart's position in the pantheon of great television, sets the record straight on that in The Atlantic this week:
”The idea that what Jon Stewart and his team did was journalism always rankled some journalists, but that’s exactly what it was. At its most fundamental level, the purpose of journalism in a democracy is to build a more informed citizenry.
“For many Americans, especially younger ones, Stewart fulfilled that task. And it seems to be a duty his successors are eager to take up: As he began his new season last week, John Oliver expanded the Last Week Tonight staff not by adding more comedy writers, but by hiring investigative journalists.”
Do any of you recall Oliver's three-month stint as substitute host of The Daily Show while Stewart shot his feature film, Rosewater? I was riveted. In his own way, he was equal to Stewart - as his current HBO program proves every week.
We have seven or eight or nine or so more months of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and I will savor every episode.
But America should not be, does not deserve to be, without a daily dose of what's really going on in our world, of mocking what needs mocking, and if I could have my way, John Oliver's HBO outing will turn out to be an interlude while waiting for his rightful place as distinguished successor to Jon Stewart.
UPDATE 5:45AM: I just read an excellent piece about the importance of Jon Stewart to America by Timothy Egan on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today is – nothing. No story. It is on hiatus for two weeks. Please read more here.