The Newspaper Association of America is upset that John Oliver didn’t offer any ideas on how to fix its industry during a 20-minute monologue on Sunday’s episode of “Last Week Tonight” during which he bemoaned the state of modern American journalism.
NAA President and CEO David Chavern issued a statement saying that the HBO host should “spend more time talking about what the future of news could be.”
“Other than encouraging people to ‘pay for’ more news, he doesn’t offer any answers. More particularly, he spends most of the piece making fun of publishers who are just trying to figure it out. Whatever you think of the name ‘tronc’ and that company’s announced growth strategy, at least they are trying new things and trying to figure out how to create great news journalism in the digital era. John Oliver doesn’t seem to have any better ideas,” Chavern wrote.
Oliver mocked the tronc-ated name of Tribune Online Content before reiterating the importance of newspapers. He noted that websites and cable news networks rely on the industry for a lot of their content, citing numerous examples including previous segments from his own show as well as others across broadcast TV.
“The fact is that we are in a transitional phase within the entire industry. People want, need and consume more hard news than they ever have. The core demand for the product isn’t decreasing at all, and based upon that we will find our way to the far shore where the industry is thriving and growing once again,” Chavern continued. “But making fun of experiments and pining away for days when classified ads and near-monopolistic positions in local ad markets funded journalism is pointless and ultimately harmful.”
During the bit, Oliver noted that the digital-first strategy of many modern newspaper companies has led to clickbait-style news, slipping in a few jabs at Las Vegas mogul Sheldon Adelson, who now owns the city’s largest newspaper, as well as tronc.
Chavern ended his statement with a suggestion on how Oliver should spend his time going forward: “I would just ask Mr. Oliver to spend more time talking about what the future of news could be, and less time poking fun at publishers who are trying to get there.”
The NAA represents nearly 2,000 newspapers in America and Canada.
Check out the original “Last Week Tonight” segment below.