John Oliver lampoons modern journalism with a ‘Spotlight’ parody trailer

Forget corruption at City Hall—have you seen this cat that looks like a raccoon?

What if a newspaper swapped investigating corruption at City Hall with an in-depth look at a cat who looks like a raccoon?

That’s the dystopian not-so-distant-future John Oliver imagines in a hilarious parody trailer of the film, which concludes a lengthy Last Week Tonight segment on the state of journalism. 

The trailer for Stoplight stars Bobby Cannavale as a hard-charging Boston journalist investigating corruption at City Hall, Jason Sudeikis as a click-chasing newsroom chief, and Rose Byrne as the lead writer on the raccoon-cat (or is it cat-raccoon?) beat.

“I’m hearing there’s corruption in City Hall, and I think it could go all the way to the top,” Cannavale tells the fictional newsroom. “They knew. And I think we can prove that they knew.”

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“Yeah, I’m just not sure what kind of clicks we’re gonna get on that,” Sudeikis replies.

Though the trailer is funny, it’s also a bit sad, as it relies on real-life examples of decimated newsrooms at big-city newspapers across the country. In one clip, Oliver shows former Tribune Company head Sam Zell responding to an Orlando Sentinel reporter who questions Zell’s strategy of prioritizing profit and stories that readers want (“cute puppies”) instead of what they need.

“You’re giving me the classic, what I’d call, journalistic arrogance, of deciding puppies don’t count,” Zell tells the reporter. “Hopefully we get to the point where our revenue is so significant that we can do [both] puppies and Iraq, OK? [Expletive] you!”

Oliver also cites an interview with Washington Post executive editor and former Boston Globe editor Marty Baron who says modern journalists are responsible for way more than just writing, often shooting their own videos, updating wire services, and maintaining an active social media presence.

“If journalists are constantly required to write, edit, shoot videos, and tweet, mistakes are going to get made,” Oliver says. “Perhaps that is how The Boston Globe wound up tweeting following a shooting in Tennessee that the FBI had ‘investifarted’ about 70 leads already.”

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