Session 8: How to Write the Fake News (Opening Keynote)

There are few things more awesome to me than when I get to meet and/or listen to someone who works for one of my favorite TV shows. I think it comes from the pop culture geek in me, but anytime I get a sneak peek at life behind the scenes of a TV show, I completely fan out.

Such was the case with today’s opening keynote for the CMA Conference, “How to Write the Fake News,” led by Zhubin Parang and Hallie Haglund, two writers for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I absolutely love both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, especially because they shed such necessary light on our government, our media and the state of our world in general. I’ve always really admired the writing staffs for each show, because having to find a punchline every day for every current event seems like the exact opposite of an easy task. They have my complete respect, and my crossed fingers during the Emmys.

So, sitting in a room with two Daily Show writers was a big deal. As expected, both Zhubin and Hallie were hysterical throughout the 90-minute keynote, and shared a lot of interesting stories about the writing process for The Daily Show, how they interact with each other, how they come up with that day’s jokes, etc.

The only thing was, though… they didn’t really explain how to write the fake news. And on top of that, not all of us want to write the fake news for a living. When I think of a keynote, I think of an all-encompassing speech that gives advice and inspires people and pushes people to go out and do something. But Zhubin and Hallie really did neither, which was such a shame. For those in the audience who do want to end up writing satirical political comedy, they probably left feeling like they didn’t actually learn how to do so. And for those of us who want to end up in an entirely different field of journalism, how did this keynote help us in our careers?

I think, ultimately, I expected the keynote to be more general. For Zhubin and Hallie to talk about the challenges they faced breaking into the industry; what they would do differently if they were back in college; what we should do as college students to get our names out there and be noticed. Instead, the keynote was narrowly tailored. And while I got some great entertainment out of it (and walked away with a handful of mental notes), I’m not sure I would have attended the keynote if it weren’t required. If only I wanted to go into the funny business of fake news writing.

–Rebecca Iannucci

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