MEDIA
11/18/2014 11:03 am ET Updated Nov 18, 2014

John Oliver Totally Smacks Down Idea That He Is Doing Real 'Journalism'

Andrew H. Walker via Getty Images

Turns out pretty much everyone thinks John Oliver is a real journalist except for John Oliver.

In an interview with The New York Times' David Carr, published Sunday, the "Last Week Tonight" host completely rejected the idea that he is doing any type of journalism with his comedy show.

From The New York Times:

So, I asked Mr. Oliver: Is he engaging in a kind of new journalism? He muttered an oath, the kind he can say on HBO for comic emphasis, but we don’t say here, adding, “No!”

“We are making jokes about the news and sometimes we need to research things deeply to understand them, but it’s always in service of a joke. If you make jokes about animals, that does not make you a zoologist. We certainly hold ourselves to a high standard and fact-check everything, but the correct term for what we do is ‘comedy.’"

Journalists and other news outlets, however, would disagree. In fact, Oliver has been praised for his reporting, however satirical, on topics like net neutrality, gender pay inequality, drones and gay rights. The Associated Press' David Bauder has shown how Oliver is actually doing significant investigative journalism, adding that journalists from media outlets like the Times and ProPublica are even a part of Oliver's writing staff. Columbia Journalism Review went so far as to highlight "4 topics John Oliver explained more clearly than television news."

"Oliver has seemingly aimed higher, often dissecting complex policy issues better than the TV programs he parodies," CJR's David Uberti wrote.

Time's James Poniewozik penned a direct rebuttal to Oliver's comments in the Times interview, arguing that the comedian is reporting the news in a way that actually attracts viewers.

"That’s journalism," he wrote. "A news analysis is journalism; an editorial is journalism. The chief difference between these and what Oliver does, if anything, is that he’s entertaining, so that, when he spends 15 minutes arguing the stakes of net neutrality, people actually pay attention and even act on it. If that makes it 'not journalism,' then it’s journalism that has the problem."

And Criticwire's Sam Adams also responded to the Times interview, in a post titled "Dear John Oliver: Like It Or Not, You Are a Journalist," arguing against comedians like Oliver and Jon Stewart, who claim their works sits solely under the umbrella of entertainment.

"This can't be journalism, they tacitly argue: It's fun," he wrote. "But entertainment, whether it means drawing the audience into a gripping mystery or crafting graphics that get their attention in the first place, has always been a part of journalism — at least the kind people actually read."

So, comedy or journalism? Watch Oliver's segment on net neutrality, and you be the judge.

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