Abstract - Lee Rossof

The expression 'Fifth Estate' is used to label people who express views in opposition to those found in the mainstream media- the Fourth Estate. The present study investigates how Jon Stewart acted as a Fifth Estate during the 2008-2010 economic crisis. Few scholars have written about Stewart’s effectiveness as a Fifth Estate in measurable terms, such as prompting a public figure to admit a wrongdoing and to promise to do better on air.

Through careful examination of the recurring Daily Show segment, “Clusterf#@k to the Poor House,” the techniques used by Stewart were analyzed in order to better understand how he acted as a media watchdog during the recent economic meltdown. As a comedian, Stewart was excused from journalistic standards of objectivity and free to criticize both the press and the public figures who so often occupy major news headlines. Stewart used satire to call into question the legitimacy of common media practices. He also took his analysis one step further to present the news stories he felt were inadequately covered by the press. Finally, Stewart used his position of power to put pressure on the targets of his criticism, oftentimes prompting them to respond to or interact with the Daily Show host, ultimately paving the way for an improved condition of accountability within the Fourth Estate.


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