We can trace the evolution of television’s role within American society from a refuge of popular entertainment to a barometer of popular culture. The latter role has persevered through waves of social change. “Tosh 2.0” demonstrates the adaptability of TV in the face of a sea change in communication, such as the genesis of the World Wide Web. One might say that the youtube and its ilk are outgrowths of television. Certainly the internet and television are reflections of each other. The constant through TV’s development is the vitality of the news media to identify and explain the junctures of time that inhabit progress. Without these explanations, the populace would miss turning points in history, like man’s first walk on the moon.
There is only one reliable news source that truly provides clarity to these types of developments: The New York Times. A pantheon of American culture, the NYT provides us with the context and insight to understand what will become a seminal moment in history.
An article in the “Arts and Leisure” section of yesterday’s Sunday Times apprises us of one such turning point, when Stephen Colbert begins his reign as host of the Late Show on CBS, Tuesday night at 11:30. Mr. Colbert succeeds David Letterman, who had been the host for over two decades. If it weren’t for the Times write-up of Mr. Colbert, I would not know what to make of the extensive coverage by every news and entertainment outlet on newsstands and the web.
The light-hearted title of the article belies the gravity of the moment:
THE LATE NIGHT HOPE
Get it? Rhymes with the “Great White Hope”!
Without this headline, I certainly would have missed the article’s underlying truth–that Late Night TV was in such disarray it needed a hope. Good thing that the title is so prominent, because the article gives no clue as to why. I hadn’t realized that Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O’Brien were not holding their own.
But that’s not all. I could tell that Tuesday night’s show will be in the annals of history because a photo of Mr. Colbert covers 95% of the front page of the “Arts and Leisure” section; below the photo are the three beginning paragraphs of the article. Inside, the article is two pages long, which must trump the other long articles in the remaining 18 pages of the section.
The New York Times has painted an effective portrayal of Mr. Colbert. First we get a glimpse into his mind. Despite being a comedian and political satirist, Mr. Colbert can think:
Even with no cameras to play to, Mr. Colbert is quick-witted, acerbic and loquacious. He uses words like “catharsis” in casual conversation and can flawlessly pronounce the name of the Mesoamerican deity Quetzalcoatl.
The Times is truly remarkable. First, its reporters can decipher the formality of a conversation. Next, they are erudite to know not only when polysyllabic words are used correctly, but also when esoteric names are pronounced correctly.
It is important to know that The New York Times teaches by modelling for its readers. The dignified respect for those who have appeared in its pages have had a profound effect on the way I gossip. According to the editorial policy of the New York Times, the first time that a person is mentioned in an article, he or she is referred to by his/her full name–ie, both first and last names. After that, the sky’s the limit–people are referred to by their proper title and last name, to wit, Mr. Colbert, Mr. Letterman, Mr. Stewart.
The Times does not sacrifice chivalry for clarity. Here’s an example:
Mr. Stewart, who was also contemplating whether to stay on with “The Daily Show,” said he and Mr. Colbert often discussed their similar predicaments.….Mr. Stewart added that in these conversations about the future, he encouraged Mr. Colbert to think about “Late Show” as a plausible next step, being one of the very few candidates who would likely be considered whenever Mr. Letterman decided to step down….Sure enough, Mr. Letterman announced in April 2014 that he would retire from “Late Show”; after 22 years, CBS found itself in need of a new anchor for its late-night lineup.
It takes an extra fold in my brain to recognize the nice gentlemen named in the paragraph.
I recommend that you keep the article close you watch tomorrow night’s show. That way you can truly grasp the profundity of the moment as it unfolds before you.