What ‘The Daily Show’ Writers & Producers Think about the Media
by Mallary Tenore Tarpley
About a week and a half ago, I tweeted: ” ‘Daily Show’ watchers: What are some of your favorite clips? Which ones have you found to be most clever, convincing?” I was planning to write a story about “The Daily Show” and wanted to learn more from readers about the kinds of clips they like.
About five people tweeted back their favorite clips, which included “End Times,” in which “The Daily Show’s” Jason Jones visits The New York Times office; “Marines in Berkeley” and “Trapped in the Closet.”
I collected the links people sent me and then had to turn my attention to more timely stories. But when “The Daily Show” exposed Fox’s Sean Hannity for using incorrect video in a clip of the recent health care protest, I knew there was a greater time peg. I called my contact at the show last Thursday, and he set me up with three interviews on Friday. I ended up talking with two of the show’s producers and one writer. They had some pretty intriguing things to say about journalists and about their strategy for finding the perfect clips that expose the media’s wrongdoings or shortcomings.
There really aren’t many professional media critics out there, so it’s interesting to see how “The Daily Show” is helping to fill this void and holding journalists accountable when they make mistakes. The writer and producers I talked to said they don’t think journalists turn to “The Daily Show” for news. The jokes just wouldn’t make sense, they said, if people didn’t come to the show without some prior knowledge of the day’s political news. I wonder the extent to which people turn to it to get a better sense of how truthful the media reports they’re consuming really are. …
“Daily Show” producer Ramin Hedayati spends his morning flipping back and forth between the “Today Show” and “The Early Show,” glancing at major news sites and political blogs and reading The New York Times. When he gets into the office, he scans through news shows recorded on the office’s 13 TiVos and looks for glaring inconsistencies, misleading reports and humorous soundbites.
While watching Sean Hannity’s coverage of an anti-health-care-reform rally at the Capitol last week, he knew something wasn’t quite right. “I remember saying to myself …’There couldn’t be a more beautiful day for this rally.’ Then all of a sudden it went to cloudy footage,” said Hedayati. “Hannity used footage from Glenn Beck’s 9/12 rally to make his rally look bigger … We were surprised that no one else caught it.”
Hannity responded last week to the show’s uncovering of the inconsistency, saying the video switch-up was an “inadvertent mistake.”
While its touts itself as a comedy show first and foremost, “The Daily Show” is also an unabashed media critic and ombudsman of sorts that exposes journalists’ wrongdoings and shortcomings.
How do you see “The Daily Show” and journalism fitting together?