Brow Beat

John Oliver Remade Spotlight to Show What Newspapers Are Like in the Digital Age

Is John Oliver a journalist? The Last Week Tonight host has rejected the label in the past, but as he showed on Sunday night, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have strong opinions about the state of journalism in 2016. Sure, we may idolize reporters in movies like Spotlight, but that hasn’t stopped the steady decline of newspapers over the past decade. After all, a lot of our news—and even the material for Oliver’s own segments—comes from these sources, even if we get that information through a third party like “Facebook, Google, Twitter, or Arianna Huffington’s Blockquote Junction and Book Excerpt Clearinghouse.”


When print newspapers’ standards are jeopardized by staff cuts or in making the switch to digital, Oliver argues, we all suffer for it, and not just because that results in content-churners like Tronc. Publications can become vulnerable to dubious buyers, like casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who purchased the Las Vegas Review-Journal, or to silly mistakes, like the Boston Globe’s “investifarted” tweet. Most importantly, they can stop investigating the local issues that so desperately need to be monitored to prevent corruption.

Since we don’t actually want to pay for our news anymore, Oliver enlists Jason Sudeikis, Bobby Cannavale, and Rose Byrne to give Spotlight an update for the age of clickbait. But if that seems too depressing, have a raccoon-cat video instead.