By Tim Hayes
I weep for the future.
Recently, a story on Jimmy Fallon preparing to become the next host of the “Tonight Show” ran on the Internet. In it, Fallon said he had spoken with the outgoing host, Jay Leno, about the job and asked Leno for advice.
In reply, Leno told Fallon to make his monologues longer than the three-minute segments he had been doing. When Fallon asked why, Leno said, “You need to talk more about what’s going on that day, because the monologue is where people get their news.”
Good Lord. Let me reiterate: I weep for the future.
Leno, sadly, makes a strong case. Surveys of young adults state that a majority of that demographic indeed gets its news from Comedy Central programs like “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report.”
Comedy Central? Really?
The argument in favor of this trend says that such shows are not beholden to the standard rules of journalism. They don’t have to be objective. In fact, their intent is to poke fun at newsmakers, and in the process inform their viewers about important people and events happening right now – albeit through a fairly opinionated lens.
The slant to such shows may tilt more left than right, and the argument there says these programs serve as a counterweight to right-leaning opinion programming, such as “The O’Reilly Factor” and “Hannity” on Fox News.
The point here is not to take sides as to which approach is correct or better. They all have a place on the spectrum. Bill O’Reilly has his point of view that he advocates strongly every night, and Jon Stewart is pretty damn funny as he picks apart the lies and hypocrisies spewed by those in power.
No, the point to be made is that when people – especially young people, who someday will be in charge of our companies, our government, our families, and our society – rely on these types of openly and admittedly biased sources for their daily intake of news, we may be headed for trouble down the road.
The function of journalism is to present current events in a fair, balanced, and objective manner, reflecting all pertinent sides of a story, so that the consumers of this information can make up their own minds and form their own opinions.
When news gets delivered already shrink-wrapped in an outer coating of opinion, that robs the consumer of the fundamental right, duty, and responsibility of people living in a representative republic like the U.S. to think for themselves.
So, Jimmy Fallon, if you’re still accepting advice about taking over the “Tonight Show,” keep your monologues at three minutes. Be a comedian, not an anchorman.
Copyright 2014 Tim Hayes Consulting and Transverse Park Productions LLC