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It's Not Just the New Host of 'The Daily Show' We Should Be Worried About, It's the Format

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | March 31, 2015 |

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | March 31, 2015 |

As the backlash and the backlash-against-the-backlash to the selection of Trevor Noah as the new The Daily Show host continues to spiral out of control in our ever-shrinking news cycle, there is something else disqueting we perhaps should also be concerned out. It comes in a statement from Comedy Central president Michelle Ganeless about the future of The Daily Show under its new host:

“The show was created to be a half-hour comedic answer to the nightly news. And now the news cycle is not a 24-hour new cycle; it’s a 24-second news cycle. The opportunity here, with a change like this, is to evolve the show and how it lives and breathes on every platform.”

Unless I’m reading this wrong, the idea is that the future The Daily Show will be that it will be able to react quicker to the rapidity of the news cycle, right? So they can reply to every breaking story, every new development, every Facebook post, every tweet, and every micro-aggression?

Isn’t this the fucking problem with the Internet?

I thought that the new trend was toward a more issue-oriented approach like what we’re seeing with Larry Wilmore’s The Nightly Show and, especially, This Week Tonight. John Oliver takes a longer view. He steps back. He takes it all in — the breaking news, the developing stories, the tweets and Facebook posts — and then he responds. He has more information, more time to digest and process the news, and he puts more thought and research into his analysis.

One of the things that I also appreciate about Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show is that if a story breaks during the day, they don’t scrap the show and throw together something else quickly in order to take advantage of a trending news story. He takes another day to meet with his staff and his writers to consider it, to collect more information, and hopefully come out on the right side of the issue.

A quick response isn’t always the best response, even if it’s the one likely to generate the most traffic/ratings. There are enough knee-jerk responses on Twitter. For better or worse, The Daily Show is where many of us get our news. Even when it comes to fake news, I’d rather have an informed opinion than a quick one.

The Trevor Noah backlash story is the perfect meta-example. Emily spent some time this morning considering how to write about those tweets. Several others weighed in, and hours later, we’re still weighing in on the Pajiba back channels (although, we seem to have arrived at the same conclusion that Emily arrived at this morning: It’s disappointing). If Trevor Noah was going to cover the Trevor Noah story on The Daily Show, I’d hope that he’d step back and see how it plays out before weighing in instead of rushing to condemn or defend “Trevor Noah.” Because Trevor Noah might not like “Trevor Noah” very much if he at least didn’t consider and evaluate the context, although in the end, he still may very well conclude that “Trevor Noah” is a problematic character.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.