In recent years we’ve been hearing the term “fake news” used to describe mainstream news media stories that are considered biased, misleading, or outright false. This is actually a misuse of the term originally popularized by Jon Stewart who spent 16 years hosting a show that he referred to as “Fake News.” While Jon Stewart popularized the satire news format, it had been around for a while on shows like Saturday Night Live. This page offers some context and video documentaries about Jon Stewart’s work and influence. The information here is mostly drawn from Wikipedia and the seven videos below.

Jon Stewart Named Most Trusted Man in America

So, the term ‘Fake News’ was used for years in referring to a genre of late night comedy that combined current news and events with humor. Ultimately, the news offered by Jon Stewart was not fake but offered very insightful commentary on current events. In fact, Stewart became the most trusted journalist in America taking the place of Walter Cronkite.

Jon Stewart as an Ambassador

Jon took what had previously been skits with a mostly silly and funny format, and dialed in a little more seriousness with guests. In this capacity he became a kind of ambassador, meeting with numerous heads of state and foreign leaders who might not be willing to meet with any official U.S. government or media representatives. Jon Stewart’s work was so influential and impactful that Brian Williams said of Stewart: “I consider him a branch of government.” He was known to be fair and respectful, so although considered left leaning in his own views, he had guests who were very conservative by comparison.

Criticism of Mainstream News Media

Stewart used the self deprecating term ‘fake news’ for his show as a way of holding ‘real news’ to a higher standard. Stewart was a harsh critic of major network news and talkshows, declaring that they were theatrics rather than real news:

  • Stewart complained, “You have people on for just knee jerk reactionary talk.”
  • Stewart held a rally in Washington D.C. “to send a message to our leaders and our national media.”
  • It was said of Stewart, “He has seized an essential role in American culture by attacking the cherished conventions of journalism.” and “Jon has broken through by turning the media culture on its head.”
  • He criticized the mainstream news media coverage of a political convention saying, “Throughout the week, the media has been here doing a superb job of giving the convention the profanatory superficial, backwards analysis it deserves.”
  • Criticizing the format used by CNN Crossfire (and others) Stewart said, it’s not just bad but “it’s hurting America.”
  • A Bloomberg documentary recalls, “In October of 2004, Stewart’s comedy took a significant and quite serious turn when he mounted an attack on the partisan shouting matches that cable networks offered as standard fare.”

Additional Reading

Jon Stewart Videos and Documentaries

Jon Stewart Interview on CBS This Morning (17 Nov 2016)

Jon Stewart Documentary on PBS NewsHour (6 Aug 2015)

Jon Stewart Criticizes Journalist Judith Miller (30 Apr 2015)

Jon Stewart Discussed on CBC News Canada (16 Feb 2015)

Jon Stewart Interview on CBC News Canada (14 Nov 2014)

Bloomberg Documentary on Jon Stewart (3 Jun 2014)

Jon Stewart Interview with Larry King (21 Oct 2010)

Jon Stewart on Crossfire (16 Jan 2006)