Watch: John Oliver Shines a Spotlight on the State of Journalism on ‘Last Week Tonight’

     August 8, 2016


This probably comes as a surprise to no one, but I don’t consider myself a journalist. I won’t speak for my fellow writers, but the term “journalist” to me has always conjured up images of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the hard-nosed reporters of the 1970s who doggedly pursued the hidden truths of the Watergate scandal. I write about superhero movies and make lists about great cartoons from your childhood. The only thing I have in common with Woodward, Bernstein, and their ilk is receiving the occasional death threat.

And yet movie bloggers, cultural curators, listicle generators and the like are outpacing the quality journalists of our country’s (and the world’s) newspapers by sheer quantity and percentage of clicks. That’s the issue that John Oliver tackled on the latest episode of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, in a segment that mentioned cultural touchstones (movies and TV shows) about “journalism” that are more easily digested than are the problems inherent to the decline of classical, real-world journalism. Oliver’s as funny and entertaining as always, but the issues he raises grow scarier the longer you think about them.

Watch Oliver’s latest clip from HBO’s Last Week Tonight below:

The newspaper industry is suffering. That’s bad news for journalists — both real and fictional.

Oliver’s not quite as scathing in this case as he has been in the past. That’s unfortunate because the angrier he gets, the more people seem to pay attention to his message. And yet the most frustrating thing about each of these segments is that, for all they do to inform us, there’s often very little we can do to rectify the situation. If you’re a billionaire with a heart of gold who wants to buy up a struggling newspaper with a strong history and tradition in order to keep it afloat without chasing clicks or racing for the lowest common denominator, by all means, go for it. The rest of us will probably just keep on clicking on headlines about “puppies and sometimes Iraq.”

If you’d like to get caught up on some recent clips in which Oliver takes down certain shaky pillars of modern society, check out the following links: