Jon Stewart has always described what he and his team do as “fake news” because of its satirical and mocking tone. That being said, I consistently turn to Stewart for news updates and have grown to trust him over the last several years. Even though his news is “fake”, his influence is not. It appears that a recent segment of The Daily Show had some impact on the Department of Veteran Affairs. During the segment, Stewart calls out the department for a rule that makes it difficult for veterans in rural areas to get access to government-provided healthcare. The day after this segment aired, the department changed the rule, in effect doubling the number of veterans that can get healthcare access.
There is speculation that Congress was advocating for a rule change as well, but there is a possibility that Stewart’s segment raised more awareness than Congress would have. To me, Veteran Affairs is a problem that I am certainly aware of, but it never stays at the top of my mind like plenty of issues. The rule brought up by Stewart is about the details of measuring the distance to a veteran affairs facility. While important, it is not the type of news you are likely to frequently hear about on its own.
Stewart’s influence is in identifying ridiculous aspects of law, media or government and highlighting them for his viewers. To me, he is one of the best examples of media as a watchdog, even though he’s not just criticizing the government, he’s often criticizing other media organizations. While it may make me cynical about the state of the world, the way he and his team present the news makes me more likely to do research and get involved in an issue because he points out such absurdity. I think that’s a great influence for any news media, “fake” or real, to have. Maybe Stewart will run for president, making his ability to influence much easier. Jokes aside, I’m certainly sad to see him go, and hopefully someone with the same ability will take his place.