John Oliver’s most recent segment rocked the world of journalism when he gave a 20-minute analysis on the demise of print journalism and newspapers.

In the humor-laden episode of “Last Week Tonight,” Oliver goes in-depth about the issue that is the closing and downsizing of print newspapers and how it affects all of us. Even if you’re someone who gets your news from online publications or TV news outlets, many of those sources get their information from local newspapers.

With newspapers plunging head first into the “digital future” and a lack of the type of journalism produced by print publications (with the help of statehouse reporters), the public is at risk for being under-informed and politicians might soon have the opportunity to revel in a hotbed of corruption—accountability be damned.

He enlightens viewers with a variety of other cons that go hand-in-hand with the fall of local newspapers, but this is the overall point he makes.

Oliver’s take on the implications of the shift from traditional reporting to digital-only platforms was well-received in many media circles. Some outlets framed it as something we can learn from, and hopefully find a solution for keeping journalistic integrity intact.

Others weren’t so pleased with the HBO anchor’s commentary, specifically David Chavern, president and CEO of the Newspaper Association of America.

In fact, his response came off more as angry and defensive, as he denounces him for “making fun of publishers who are just trying to figure it out.”

He particularly took offense to Oliver’s teasing of companies like “Tronc,” previously referred to as Tribune Publishing.

“Whatever you think of the name ‘tronc’ and that company’s announced growth strategy, at least they are trying new things and trying to figure out how to create great news journalism in the digital era,” he wrote. “John Oliver doesn’t seem to have any better ideas.”

He further dubs Oliver’s critiques as “pointless and ultimately harmful,” although, in this case, the only thing that seems to have been harmed are Chavern’s feelings.

He ends his lamentation by saying, “I would just ask Mr. Oliver to spend more time talking about what the future of news could be, and less time poking fun at publishers who are trying to get there.”

The Washington Post pointed out in a response to Chavern’s defense of the industry’s trajectory that the HBO star is “after all, in the comedy business” and poignantly states that he “did indeed make fun of Tronc, the renamed Tribune Co., whose incomprehensible corporate jargon thoroughly deserves the drubbing it’s been getting in the recent months.”

Margaret Sullivan, the author of this response piece, also made a point of labeling Oliver’s video as a “love letter to newspapers” rather than a spiteful jab at outliers in the industry, and maintained that the things he chose to address had been widely discussed and considered on Monday. Rather than doing harm, she wrote that it might work more as a catalyst for those who value good journalism to do something to save it.

“When someone hilariously and poignantly celebrates the industry that you are paid to defend and protect, you ought to laugh at the funny parts and then simply say ‘thank you,’” she wrote. “Or maybe nothing at all.”

 

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