Oliver Laments State of Print Journalism, Reimagines Spotlight in the Digital-Clickbait World


The 2015 film Spotlight showed the true power of print journalism and old-school reporting at its best. However, as Last Week Tonight‘s John Oliver revealed in his deep-dive Sunday night, this form of journalism is dying quickly at the hands of the digital landscape.

“Stupid shows like ours lean heavily on print journalism,” Oliver noted at the top of the segment, indicating the depth of original reporting from true print sources that inform the cable news of today. But, as a result of the increasingly influential landscape of digital media sources — often times chasing the most clickable headlines as opposed to those of substance — changes have been affecting newsrooms steadily for the past decade.

“Between 2003 and 2014, the number of full-time state-house reported declined by 35%,” Oliver said. “It is clearly smart for newspapers to expand online, but the danger in doing that is the temptation to gravitate towards whatever gets the most clicks.” The HBO late night comedian points to Tribune Media as an example, which rebranded as as TRONC, or as Oliver puts it, “The sound an ejaculating elephant makes or more appropriately, the sound of a stack of print newspapers being thrown into a dumpster.”

After an on-screen TRONC rep describes the convoluted system, Oliver asserts, “What the fuck did she just say?!” to uproars from the audience. “We’re gonna take content and simply cram it down your throat like you’re an abused goose,” he joked.

In typical Last Week Tonight style, the segment ends with a reimagined sketch on the episode’s top topic. This week featured a parody of the Academy Award-winning Spotlight, starring Bobby Cannavale, Jason Sudeikis, Brian Doyle-Murray and Rose Byrne. Cannavale — ever the gumshoe-driven journo focused on uncovering the truth of a city-wide scandal — is trumped by the new age of digital priorities: clicks, Retweets, and a hybrid raccoon-cat bound to go viral.

“Publishers are desperate, and no one seems to have a perfect plan on how to keep newspapers afloat,” concluded Oliver.

Watch the above segment from Last Week Tonight‘s YouTube page.

[image via screengrab]

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