The Legacy of Brian Williams and Jon Stewart

Feb 12, 2015

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams has been suspended without pay for six months. Jon Stewart says he’s leaving The Daily Show.

Two influential media figures, leaving the television playing field at the same time, for different reasons.

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with two journalists about Williams' and Stewart's impact on the media landscape.

Brian Williams

Michael Bugeja is the director of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University. He says that the journalism industry has weathered reporter scandals in the past, as it will this time around. To him, the biggest takeaway from this story is how Facebook and Twitter users started to frame the national media in a way not seen before.

"This is a new media environment, and mainstream media had better pay attention to social media's power and the power to frame what the mainstream media is reporting," Bugeja says.

There is a confusion amongst many about what is a journalist and what is a celebrity, and that really is at the root of what we should be thinking about with these two cases. - Michael Bugeja

Jon Stewart

Lyle Muller, executive director of the non-profit Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, joined the conversation as well. Both Muller and Bugeja agree that Jon Stewart on The Daily Show has done an excellent job of covering what the mainstream media does not.

"He started a genre," says Muller. "It's the cable news programs that take a serious look at the news, but with a flare of comedy, taking a look at some of the hypocrisy that goes on."

Muller goes on to say that satirists can often get to the truth of a subject better than mainstream reporters.

"They're not afraid about, worrying about, 'Do I have balance?' [...] They're just drilling for the truth."

Ben Kieffer also talks with Iowa State University psychology associate professor, Jason Chan, about the possibility of Williams having faulty recollections of his time in Iraq, as well as the science of false memories.