Satire does news better than news programs do news
by Justin McGill, General Manager --
May 14, 2014 | 141 141 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Every now and then, I use this column to bring you recaps of late-night news (or “news”) television programs like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. I do this for at least two reasons.

1. These programs are focused on making points about our world – particularly politics and the manner in which big media cover them – that are of significance and aren’t being made elsewhere.

2. I know the majority of our readership will miss these points because they will never watch a show like The Daily Show or The Colbert Report.

Understand that I have no problem with reason no. 2. I tend to use my parents (whether they know it or not) as a test for what many people in this community may or may not find offensive. The forms in which those programs present their information would cause many of you to change the channel. And that’s fine. I contend to this day that my job has forced me to develop a thicker skin and a more laid-back attitude over the years, otherwise my reaction to such programs might be similar to yours.

All that being said, I’m now making an addition to the list of programs I might write about in the future, knowing full well that you’ll probably never watch it.

On Sunday, I watched Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, who, like Stephen Colbert, is a descendent of Jon Stewart’s Daily Show tree. However, whereas I might be inclined to suggest an occasional episode of Colbert or Stewart’s show for wider viewing, I’m telling you right now: If you are offended easily, do not watch Last Week Tonight. Particularly, do not watch the episode that aired Sunday.

It’s a shame I feel the need to say that to you, because it’s one you need to see for yourself. Why do I warn against watching it? It’s on HBO. I don’t know all of you, but I know enough of you well enough to know that you wouldn’t enjoy much of what’s on HBO.

Anyway, I’ll give you the gist.

Oliver revealed to his audience a piece of information that impacts our readers in a pretty direct way. Of all the current United States Senate races, none accounts for more funds spent on campaigns than the one in Kentucky between incumbent Mitch McConnell (R) and Allison Lundergan Grimes (D). Interestingly, the majority of those funds is coming from out-of-state donors.

Oliver showed an attack ad from each candidate – McConnell’s railing against Grimes and her apparent “war against coal miners” and Grimes’ accusing McConnell of setting the house on fire and trying to take credit for putting it out.

Oliver’s point was that attack ads in general have gotten out of hand. He then showed a pair of attack ads his staff put together for McConnell and Grimes, and here’s where we get to the point that likely would have caused you to change the channel. I’ll spare you the details – it’s HBO. You can imagine where they went with the joke.

The point is still valid, as are several others made in the same segment. The one that seems to ring the most true – and should bother Kentucky voters the most – is that as this race continues to develop, it seems to have less and less to do with Kentucky and its residents.

This is not a problem unique to Kentucky, however. Neither is the problem of candidates skewing negative on their opponents while telling us what they think we want to hear – or whatever it takes to get them elected. It’s more about winning and less about legislating. It’s more about serving a political party and less about serving the people.

Because bigger media outlets won’t cover news this way, we have to rely on Stewart, Colbert and Oliver to take politicians – and news media, too – to task. And, when Colbert takes David Letterman’s late-night seat on CBS next year, we’ll probably get more of the same from Colbert’s replacement, The Minority Report with Larry Wilmore, another Stewart alum. It’s still sad that we have to rely on satirical programs for a higher ratio of truth, but that’s the world we live in.

If you don’t offend easily and want to be informed, watch them.

Justin McGill is the general manager of The Cadiz Record and can be reached by email at
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