August 8, 2016

On Sunday night, John Oliver devoted 19 minutes and 22 seconds to newspapers.

“The media is a food chain which would fall apart without local newspapers,” the host of “Last Week Tonight” told his viewers. Included in the segment were a list of media stories and themes that anyone who’s been paying attention will remember:

  • Layoffs and buyouts
  • The pressures of doing important work while keeping up with production demands: “Clearly, if they had more time, they would have written ‘hashtag investifarted,'” Oliver said of that memorable 2015 Boston Globe tweet. “Because that’s how you drive the conversation.”
  • Disappearing statehouse reporters
  • Bosses that value clicks over important work
  • Tribune publishing company’s last boss, its latest boss, Tronc, “which sounds like the noise an ejaculating elephant makes,” Oliver said, “or more appropriately, the sound of a stack of newspapers being thrown into a dumpster.”
  • Billionaire owners (some who have bad ideas, some who have dangerous ones).

Though he questioned the publishers that valued the business of making money over the business of journalism, Oliver’s final verdict came down against an audience grown accustomed to getting news for free.

“Sooner or later, we are either going to have to pay for journalism,” Oliver said, “or we are all going to pay for it.”

If you haven’t already, you can watch the full segment at the top of this story. Hang around for the fake movie preview at the end that feels pretty real.

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Kristen Hare covers the people and business of local news and is the editor of Locally at Poynter. She previously worked as a staff writer…
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