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On media matters: CNN+'s 300 million-dollar flop, Jon Stewart loses his sense of humour, and the debut of a candid Canadian TV series, Speaking Freely
Big news in media this week: CNN+ is calling it quits after a month in the streaming game. This is a stunning development; it demonstrates just how out of touch legacy media has become.
Imagine: CNN+ spent 300 million dollars, and employed a staff of hundreds, to create dozens of new shows that nobody wants to watch. Fewer than 10,000 viewers were tuning in at any given time, despite an all-hands-on-deck push of talent, recruitment, and advertising. Meanwhile, Joe Rogan and his sole producer Young Jamie maintain an audience of millions with their unedited, low-production, marathon-long podcast.
Could it be that the public is not interested in buying what corporate media is selling? Will anyone in the press stop to wonder why?
Another development we should all be clocking: Netflix is hemorrhaging subscribers. Elon Musk has some thoughts…
Add to all of this: Jon Stewart’s Apple TV endeavour, The Problem With Jon Stewart, is tanking. Episode 5 has reportedly been streamed just 40,000 times. (The boilerplate Robin DiAngelo takes of Episode 8 probably aren’t helping things, either…)
To put Jon Stewart’s numbers in perspective, here’s former New York Times reporter Nellie Bowles speaking on the Honestly podcast this week: “Before he retired from Comedy Central, The Daily Show was one of the most watched shows on TV. This guy was amazing. I remember I watched it every night; I loved it. Now he has less than half the viewers that we get on an average podcast. Us!”
Meanwhile, here’s what The Atlantic has to say about Jon Stewart — who receives the Mark Twain Prize tonight at the Kennedy Center — and his new project:
The Problem With Jon Stewart is a strikingly unambitious, defiantly untimely show that confuses thrift with substance, as though spending money on anything but office furniture is a sign of intellectual unseriousness.
Ouch. But this paragraph probably gets closer to the point:
The Trump era seemed to have rocked his faith in his former profession. He used to believe in the power of comedy to hold politicians and billionaires to account, and in his own power to at least make a dent. But he’s not so sure anymore. “It’s pleasant, it’s a distraction,” he said, “but ultimately feckless.” For someone about to win the Twain Prize, he sounded awfully defeated.
I love politics, I love comedy, and, in his heyday, I loved Jon Stewart.
So, it gives me *zero* joy to point out how irrelevant he’s become, how consumed he is by the preoccupations that define his class.
Stewart is an elite liberal. Elite liberals these days are woke. And, as many before me have observed, wokeness has a tendency to implode things — institutions, careers, shows, ratings. And, critically, senses of humour.
A note from the news: The lockdown in Shanghai continues to be deeply troubling, and has sparked a searing essay over at Compact Magazine on the logic of lockdowns.
A book recommendation: I don’t know about all of you, but since the pandemic began I’ve often wrestled with cognitive overload. This week I needed a mental break from the insanity of the news cycle, and I found such a reprieve in a wonderful new historical fiction novel, Bluebird, by Canadian author Genevieve Graham, set during the Great War, and then prohibition, in Windsor, Ontario, across the river from Detroit. A delightful page-turner.
An announcement: University of Toronto professor Rafael Gomez has a candid new current affairs TV series debuting tonight, Speaking Freely, and I am pleased to be a guest. Here’s the trailer.
A teaser: Stay tuned for a busy week at Lean Out. We have a Q&A with professor Celine-Marie Pascale on her new book on poverty in America, Living On the Edge: When Hard Times Become a Way of Life, as well as an essay delving into the mainstream media consensus — what stories fly, and what stories absolutely do not. Plus, on the podcast: a conversation with the brilliant writer, Cambridge scholar, Air Force veteran, and Substacker Rob Henderson, on luxury beliefs, the sex recession, and the perils of the modern mating game.
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