Every icon has his or her imitators, and while The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart didn’t invent the concept of snarking at the news in a quasi-reporting format, his influence has had a profound impact not just on the television world, but on web video. And shows that draw inspiration from the format continue to find fresh approaches to the idea.
Of course, the easiest way to put a new spin on an old idea is to tailor it for a specific audience — which the the guys and gals from sketch comedy team Loading Ready Run nail with the Escapist News Network by focusing exclusively on video game news and culture. Hosted by Graham Stark and Kathleen DeVere, ENN‘s one-liners and punchlines can be a little dense for those outside the video game world, but even a casual gamer can appreciate a story on the gaming site Popcap that references the “enslavement of the human race via the highly addictive drug Bejeweled [Popcap’s insanely popular puzzle game].”
In fairness, Escapist News Network‘s deadpan approach and dual anchor set-up is closer in style to Saturday Night Live‘s Weekend Update segment, which predates Stewart’s entire career by at least a decade. But by combining real news and actual jokes, as well as correspondent segments that emulate the Stephen Colbert school of interviewing, the show still manages to live up to the Daily Show legacy, and also do it proud with sharp production values and its own unique voice.
Closer to the Stewart model is the self-styled Walter Cronkite for YouTube, Bri Holt of Newsish. Closer to a vlog than a full newscast, Holt (who graduated from UCSD in 2008 with a degree in political science and film) uses his platform to discuss hard news issues like the economics of Medicare and deregulation, albeit with a frustrated, “why is the world so dumb” tone that’s easy to engage with.
While episodes could be more tightly edited and condensed, Newsish has slowly found its audience thanks to videos mocking, for example, a recent letter Rep. Michelle Bachmann read to the House of Representatives on the subject of alleged sex clinics in schools. The Newsish YouTube channel has close to 1,500 subscribers, and episodes average in the 1,000-10,000 range.
And these are only two recent examples of the format, which has also been explored by shows like Political Lunch, Your Geek News and The Young Turks. It’s a boom industry. Because what Stewart and The Daily Show have done is tear down the idea that because you sit at a news desk and stare into the camera, you’re supposed to give a quasi-impartial spin on the day’s events. It means that actual news programs anchored by impartial news anchors may become as archaic as cathode-ray tube TVs. But that’s just one of the side effects of the blogosphere, where opinion sometimes bears more weight than fact.