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The Impudence of Being Earnest: Jon Stewart and the Boundaries of Discursive Responsibility

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Corresponding author: Matt Carlson; e-mail: mcarls10@slu.edu

Abstract

In late 2010, Jon Stewart attracted considerable news media attention by organizing the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear and, later, pressuring lawmakers to pass legislation providing health care to 9/11 responders. The events renewed an interpretive struggle surrounding Stewart in which journalists understood his activity as signaling a shift in his cultural role. Using the concept of boundary maintenance to qualitatively analyze journalists' interpretations, this study connects journalistic discourse surrounding Stewart to questions of epistemic authority, the role of earnestness in public discourse, and the responsibility of discursive agents. These evaluations of Stewart illuminate the contestation of appropriate norms and practices within the mediated public sphere during an era of complex cultural, economic, and technological change.

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