Posted by: markfender | September 8, 2015

Last Week Tonight

John Oliver may have saved investigative journalism.

poster_666In our modern internet world, there’s no place for investigative journalism. It’s too much work to get the hits/clicks/links necessary for modern news. In fact, most online journalism is more about the headline than any actual reporting – the information below the headline doesn’t matter, only that you clicked on the link.

Magazines used to the last vestige of investigative journalism. With their longer lead times, they had the time necessary to go deep into a subject. But magazines have been dying for years. Our modern attention spans don’t work for magazines.

Now, I’m not doom and glooming because of “these damned kids today.” I like being able to find out every useless piece of trivia my brain suddenly desires to know at the drop of a hat. I like being able to pay my bills online. There are lots of good things to come from the current state of technology. But I also miss more in-depth journalistic pieces that can really explore a subject.

John Oliver has managed to do that on his show. Every week, he delves into one subject for an extended period of time. But he and his staff tend to go deeper than surface level, often needing to do extensive research. They even set up their own church (to prove the silliness of televangelists and the laws that protect them), as an example of the lengths they’ll go to for a joke/episode.

John did all that with humor, obviously. It’s the reason people actually watch the show (and, honestly, the humor is kind of hit or miss). But I’m glad to see an oft-neglected side of journalism get some face time. He tends to deal with social justice issues more often than not, which can get a little tedious (Okay, John, what outrage will I experience this week?) but you can’t deny that he’s managed to make some kind of difference. So, his reporting isn’t as broad as investigative journalism can go. But at least he’s managed to save the form. Perhaps other people and other shows can use the “make it funny” formula to revive other things that have died because of the internet. Hilarious travel agent, perhaps?


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