In a world where the 'old media' (TV, Radio & Newspapers) are in decline, 'The Daily Show with Jon Stewart' is clearly the format for the future. Shows like this one will save television.
The 'old media' mediums have had their day in the sun. Rome is certainly on fire and instead of evolving, the 'old media' is mostly happy to sit back, play the fiddle and watch the world burn.
I'm not happy about it... Working as a TV Journalist myself, I know that unless we can institute dramatic change, I'm going to find myself fifty, retrenched and unemployable. Because I never planned on doing anything else with my life, this is all I wanted to be and this is all I know.
In a media unchanged, I can see my future clearly. Twenty years from now, I'll be sitting in a bar, midday on a Wednesday, drinking beers with former road toll collectors and elevator operators while we all ponder together where we belong in the world. That's right, if we don't do anything, in my future I'm 'Norm from Cheers'. Right now the smartest career move I can make is to start buying weekly lottery tickets.
Because for the nightly news bulletin, the party is over, everyone's going home and we're just trying to tap what's left of the keg to convince people to stay. Despite what the critics say (namely those on Fox) Stewart's show, which is rebroadcast on Comedy Channels all over the world is NOT an indication we're getting 'more stupider'... In fact, it proves for the first time since television was invented, the audience is getting smart. The audience doesn't need to be told the news anymore, because for the first time, they already know it.
Back to my drinking buddy, the elevator operator. I remember when I was a child, my Uncle took me to a department store in Sydney and told me there used to be a guy with a lever and he'd stop at every floor and tell you what's there. I couldn't understand this concept. All I'd ever known was to get in, press a button and decide where I wanted to go for myself.
Soon, I'll tell my children a similar story; that is once upon a time, at exactly the same time every evening someone would come on the TV and tell us what happened in the world that day... I can see it now they'll think that's insane!
Have you ever watched a nightly news bulletin or read a newspaper and had Déjà vu? It's because what you read, what you see, what you hear... You saw and heard it all 12 hours earlier.
Anyone with a smart phone, a £10 per month pre-paid mobile plan and access to free Wi-Fi at Starbucks now has the same access to information as us Journo's sitting in our £100 Million newsrooms complete with fancy helicopters and satellites. Do me a favour, buy a newspaper tomorrow (if you still know where to get them) and scan the first 27 pages and I promise you... you're going to find it filled with stories that broke on the internet the afternoon before.
It wasn't even broken by their competitors! Newspapers now publish the very same stories they put in their next day's papers on their very own websites at 4pm the afternoon before, and they wonder why circulation is down! The Major TV networks aren't much better... When you get home tonight, watch a TV News bulletin and you'll find it's filled with the same stories that you read that day on your computer while pretending to do work in the office.
If however, you're some kind of pure 'Mythical Unicorn' and don't surf the web on company time, you'll still find TV News is still old hat, because I am certain you will have at least read or watched the events of the day on your phone as you tried to avoid eye-contact with other passengers on the bus or train trip home.
It's not just in the UK, around the world; major television news bulletins are becoming redundant. This is how the news has changed. The first war I remember in my lifetime was 'Operation Desert Storm'. I remember waiting all day for the 7pm ABC (BBC to you) News to learn exactly what had been happening in the Gulf that day.
Yet in 2011, when the most evil terrorist of the 21st Century was 'taken out' in Abbottabad, President Obama's historic speech from East Room should have been the single moment that defined this Century, yet it lost all meaning- Can anyone even remember the words?
Because we didn't have to wait for a news bulletin or a historic speech, there was no "This is our finest hour", there was no "Tear down this wall" and there was no "day that will live in infamy". The speech and news of Bin Laden's death was over before it began, thanks to 'The Rock' who so eloquently announced to the world on Twitter "America Brought It!"
In the history of mankind there have only ever been two forces so evil that their bodies had to be taken out and dumped at sea. They were of course Osama Bin Laden and Megatron. Yet rather than hear it from the leader of the Free World, we heard it from a Pro-Wrestler, and I'm sure his language wasn't vetted by the State Department.
If you monitor the internet and have access to CNN, BBC World, MSNBC, Sky News, Al Jazeera, & yes... even Fox News then the Network Nightly TV news bulletins are now as tedious as a trip to the dentist. A News Anchor throwing to packages and sitting there reading you the news in an order they deem important is just as redundant as getting in an elevator and being told "third floor, menswear!" Like picking your own floor in a lift, we can now pick what news we want ourselves and when we want it. Same goes for newspapers... I suspect if we didn't need something for Guinea Pigs and Budgies to crap on, we would have stopped printing the damn things years ago!
In 2005, the UK Newspaper industry was worth £8 Billion. The most conservative forecasts have that figure falling to £5.49 Billion by 2015.TV is not immune either, numbers suggest that for 2012, TV ad revenue in the UK was forecast at £3.56 Billion. In that same period Internet spending was expected to hit £5.35 Billion. So as the smart people always say, follow the money.
Don't get me wrong, I LOVE television news... It's my passion, calling and career. It just needs to adapt. Forget comedians, the funniest men and women I know in the world are ALL journalists... But they've been trained so that once you switch a camera on, they become as funny as the colour beige. When appropriate, TV needs to let those personalities loose. TV News needs to give the public a reason to watch, because the facts, they already know.
I've had the privilege of working with some of the most brilliant journalists, incredible News Directors, most talented cameramen and editors in the business. What they can do when telling a story is nothing short of magic. Yet since the day Nathan Rothschild brilliantly made millions off the Battle of Waterloo, news has always been about speed.
These days technology just moves too fast. News breaks online in minutes. Forget talent, all it takes is some jerk with a smart phone to capture 20 seconds of raw, grainy, shaky footage, post it online with 200 words, littered with typos explaining what happened and then that story is over- Why tell it again that night?
Point being... News is information. Whether it's told in a professional, polished evening news bulletin or by a rookie with a smart phone makes no difference. Once you know a story, even if someone can tell it to you better later, it's too late; you already know the punch line.
While Newspapers on paper are done (I still read them, but on a tablet) Television still has time to beat the internet.
So how can TV win? Simple... Just do what Jon Stewart does.
This is where my 'man crush' on Jon Stewart comes in... He's one thoroughly entertaining and clever bastard. So why does his show work? Because it doesn't patronize me with the facts, it assumes I'm smart enough to already know them.
Keep Cable News as it is, we need those channels for breaking news, emergencies, times of note, and they can compete on speed. As for the Network Bulletins, they need a serious overhaul because in this century, waiting until the end of the day to watch them, that's not news, it's just a good looking guy or girl telling me a bunch of stuff I already know.
Nightly News bulletins can still conquer the internet, improve their ratings and make themselves relevant in society once again. They can be just as powerful as they once were; they can be influential and can be a force to be reckoned with.
All they need to do is stop wasting that precious 22 minutes of air time they have every night telling me WHAT the news is... Instead they need to use those 22 minutes, like Jon Stewart does, explaining to me WHY that news matters.
News should be objective; in a perfect world we'd get that unbiased, factual, objective news on the cable channels and the internet.
The internet is faster than television. TV and the Internet need to make peace. The internet can be where we get information and TV should be where we debate it. Not the other way around. Presidents and Prime Ministers, Nobel Prize Winners and Professors won't do online forums. They will do debates on TV.
I'm not promoting we have shows on the air every night to push conservative or liberal agendas. I disagree with what Stewart and his team say just as often as I agree with them, but they do something that no news bulletin can ever do. They force me to THINK.
Rather than just showing me what's wrong with the world, they debate ways on how we can fix it. These shows, love them or hate them are the forum of tomorrow. They're a place where public figures can be prosecuted. Where issues are raised and ideas are bred.
And even if they can't solve the problems of the world... At least, they can make you think about them and they can make you laugh.