Author: Kevin Brass

Who is to Blame for the Death of Newspapers?

newspaper recycling- RSIZEThe latest initiative to recast the fate of one the world’s iconic newspaper companies sounds like a bad April Fools joke. Tribune Publishing has decided to re-brand itself as “tronc,” tossing aside one of the world’s great brands to be known as “The Company with the Name That Sounds Like a Crappy 70s Movie.”

Only in the newspaper industry would “tronc” be considered a good idea. In the newspaper business finding new ways to piss off people is what passes for innovation.

As the Tribune flails, it’s time for the newspaper industry to face reality. No more dancing around the obvious. The demise of the newspaper companies was no accident. And it was not the sad, inevitable result of that darn Internet.

Newspaper companies didn’t have to die. They were killed off by an unprecedented run of incompetence and dumbass decisions. We’re talking mismanagement of historic proportions. A generation of newspaper owners and executives wasted billions of dollars in equity and destroyed the good names of media companies around the country.

The industry is in denial, clinging to the myth of a plucky band of Dockers-lovin’ managers fighting to a save “Journalism” from the irresistible tide. That’s ridiculous. Industry managers arrogantly ignored the brick hurtling toward their faces. And even after the brick slammed home, they still refused to change their ways.

Someday economic students will study the demise of the newspaper industry for examples of how not to run a business in tumultuous times. Faced with unprecedented competition, newspaper execs raised prices and dramatically cut the quality of their product. They allowed Craigslist, a site that looks like it was created in a community college computer class, to destroy their classified advertising business. And the list goes on.

Perhaps most egregious, in an age of revolution, newspapers were the Land that Ideas Forgot. The Internet didn’t kill media; it spawned the most exciting period for media in 50 years. A wave of new media companies exploded with billion dollar valuations, from Buzzfeed and Business Insider to Huffington Post and Vice. The one common denominator: newspapers participated in none of it.

It didn’t have to roll out that way. Newspapers were primed to capitalize on the modern era. “Content is king,” everybody said, and newspapers entered the fray with mountains of content, great cash flow, deep-rooted credibility and established relationships with advertisers. On top of all that, they had millions of people already paying money for their product, a huge first-mover advantage. And they blew it.

Instead of developing new products, newspaper companies squandered their capital buying other newspapers. Even when it was clear the concept of hand-delivering newsprint to homes was a dying model, they boasted about their “local monopoly,” now that all those other papers were dead. And they continued to scoff at the new media companies developing new audiences.

CNBC host Jim Cramer recently recalled what he found 20 years ago when he went around to newspaper companies to pitch, his now-popular business site. “The newspaper guys told me if it became a big thing they’d be all over it,” Cramer said on his show, “Mad Money.” “Needless to say, by the time they figured it out, it was too late. All they ended up doing was creating suicidal versions of themselves on line.”

As the digital era took hold, the biggest newspaper companies, with vast resources and entrenched readership, floundered like beached whales. When the old guard gave up, surviving independent companies were snatched up by vultures, often bizarre individuals who stripped the value from companoes and left them for dead. (Current Tribune chairman Michael Ferro, a tech entrepreneur, follows real estate icon Sam Zell, who led the company into bankruptcy.)

Ex-employees have a right to be pissed. So do shareholders… and readers.

Even today, newspaper leaders appear to be playing a different game than the rest of the media world. While organizations battle for eyeballs and clicks, the daily newspaper looks pretty much the same as the newspaper of 20 years ago, except much smaller and much more boring. On the digital side, newspaper sites — our savior! — are still essentially electronic versions of the paper, usually with no clear business model. Something you will never hear in Silicon Valley: “Hey, I sure wish I was doing what that newspaper company is doing.”

“Every newspaper chain talks about getting digital faster,” industry analyst Ken Doctor recently told a reporter. “The plain truth is that despite almost two decades of effort, most aren’t close to where they need to be.”

You would think newspaper executives would be crazed wolverines these days, fighting for every scrap of revenue. Faced with the shocking declines, they would be trying anything, tapping new audiences, defending their existence with a frenzy of must-read, must-watch media while flipping the bird on an hourly basis to the Buzzfeeds and Ozys of the world.

Instead newspapers plod along, run by executives too scared to drop the Jumble, in fear of upsetting their aging readers. Those rascally kids don’t want anything to do with a newspaper, so why even try? Niche products? Heck, not really worth the time.

Newspapers are just hunky dory, industry executives say. Circulation revenue is stabilizing! Digital revenue growing! Newspapers will live on, they proclaim. And that may be true, to a degree. Most likely newspaper companies will survive just long enough for this current crop of executives to ride their sensible four-door sedans into the sunset to their tastefully decorated Palm Springs ranch homes.

Their legacy will be a scorched Earth of squandered resources, billions in financial losses and the demise of some of the most valued brands ever created. Under their leadership, the old newspapers lost half their revenue and the bulk of their relevance. And you can’t simply blame that on the darn Internet.

Kevin Brass writes regularly for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Financial Times. He is the author of “The Cult of Truland,” a novel set in the world of celebrity journalism.

Tips for Writers Moving from Non-Fiction to Fiction

FaceWriting fiction is a strange and mysterious concept for most media professionals, who are steeped in the style and rules of non-fiction writing.

As a journalist, you think writing fiction will be easy. You are freed from worrying about all those messy facts. What could be easier than making up a story?

Instead, fiction is a daunting mix of annoying obstacles and daunting challenges. The story is percolating. The ideas are there. But the words don’t flow. Structure, plot, characters–fiction writing is a morass of the unknown for a journalist.

But non-fiction writers have advantages in the fiction game. Real world skills can be translated into the realm of make believe. Old habits can be broken; new ones created.

Here are a few tips for non-fiction writers on how to turn those obstacles into opportunities:

::Figure Out a Style: In journalism or non-fiction, the style and voice of a book is usually fair obvious. It’s about telling the story in a factual way. But a great work of fiction create its own style and voice, a consistent tone and vocabulary that brings the reader into the fictional world. Finding that style. It’s worth taking a moment to step back and consider what kind of book you are writing. What is the genre? Who are the authors I admire in that genre? Don’t copy, but learn from those authors. Take special note of the pacing and dialog. Focus on the elements that fit your vision.

::Use Reality: Non-fictions writers are experts at reporting what they see. That works for fiction, too. Look for people, places and events that you know. Let the details of real life create the nuance of your fictional world. Those details are the key. Remember the old adage, “show, don’t tell.” Don’t stretch your imagination; mine your memory and the interactions and settings of everyday life.

SD Press Club::Think in Scenes: Many fiction newbies become trapped in the timeline of the story, letting it roll out in a set chronology. But stories are collections of moments, scenes that tell the story in dramatic fashion. Rather than recapping the daily lives of the characters, think of scenes that really illustrate the story. Focus on those moments. These scenes have beginnings, middles and ends, just like the larger story. You can always bring in other elements through flashbacks or dialogue. But the action in the scene moves the story forward.

::Don’t Forget the Drama: In the non-fiction world, a writer is simply reporting the facts. Fiction requires the writer to take on more responsibility. Scenes need to be created that revolve around some sort of conflict, threat or dilemma–either moral, physical or imagined. It doesn’t matter what kind of conflict or if it’s supposed to be a funny scene or a romantic scene. Every chapter needs an element that makes it compelling, rather than simply “moving the story along.”

::Create a Great Lead: Every journalist understands the concept of a great lead. But it’s even more important in fiction. Those first 50 pages are everything. Every writer should take an extraordinary amount of time and energy to create a gripping first 50 pages. Think of the opening scene of a movie, except in this case everybody can walk out after 15 minutes. You need to grab them.

::Leave Stuff Out: This can be a tough one. Media professionals are trained to tell the story along a tight timeline, offering information as it appears. But in fiction it’s essential to not tell the reader everything. Tease them. Leave gaps that will create questions to be answered later in the book. Drop hints as foreshadowing. In non-fiction it’s the writer’s responsibility to be true and honest; in fiction the writer’s responsibility is to engage readers, to play with their emotions and fears.

::Don’t Organize, Just Write: Every writer has their own methods. Journalists and professional commercials writers tend to like organization. Outlines. Note cards. A clear, logical path to follow. If that works for you, great. But fiction is not about arranging facts. At a certain point it’s about letting it flow, releasing the imagination to go free range. Don’t worry about where it will fit in the story or if it makes sense in the scene or if it’s appropriate for the character. Just write.

At a certain point as a writer, you can’t get hung up on the vagaries of fiction and all the rules and traditions of fiction. You just need to write. There is no substitute. It takes hard work and hours staring at a computer screen, which is something every non-fiction writer understands.

Kevin Brass is the author of “The Cult of Truland,” a satirical novel set in the world of celebrity journalism. He is a regular contributor to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and This article is excerpted from his presentation, “Going Fiction,” for the San Diego Press Club.

Author Makes Confession About ‘The Good Wife’

GoodWifeAt first, “The Good Wife” was the show I watched when I was sick. The travails of Alicia Florrick were strangely soothing, as I lay in bed with my snot rags and antihistamines.

Somewhere along the line I got hooked; I don’t how or why. As a heterosexual male over the age of 40, I am, shall we say, not the target audience for a show based on a woman wronged by her prostitute-boinking husband.

But I couldn’t stop. I watched five seasons in less than 12 months, which means my psyche absorbed more than 120 episodes and untold number of scenes of Alicia holding a glass of wine and staring out a window.

It is a difficult obsession to explain. It is, after all, a network show and, to put it bluntly, I don’t do network.

Let’s call a snob a snob — I’m too good for “The Good Wife.” Network TV is for other people. My tastes are steeped in the classics, “The Larry Sanders Show,” “The Sopranos,” “The Wire” – the bulwarks of excellent television. I was into “Damages” before “Damages” was cool. I can spend long hours discussing the inside jokes in “Californication,” but I couldn’t name the lead character in “Scandal.”

“The Good Wife” goes way beyond a guilty pleasure. “Sons of Anarchy” is a guilty pleasure. Good Wife-love is more like admitting that you just can’t stop watching “The Bachelor.”

But I’ve come clean and admitted my obsession. I’m not even embarrassed by my fanboy status. I explain my obsession in this article for

Kevin Brass writes for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and many others. He is the author of “The Cult of Truland,” a satirical novel set in the world of celebrity journalism.


Did Durst Filmmakers Do the Right Thing?

DurstIn HBO’s riveting documentary “The Jinx,” the filmmakers are seen wrestling with how to handle damning evidence they’ve uncovered about millionaire Robert Durst in the course of their research. Do they turn it over to the police? Or do they keep quiet and risk the chance a suspected murderer may escape justice?

For most journalists, it’s an easy choice. A reporter always wants to avoid any appearance of working hand-in-hand with cops. It’s not the role of a journalist to act as an investigatory arm of law enforcement. It’s essential for journalists to preserve their independence and not try to second-guess the impact of their work, until it is made public.

Of course, there are gray areas. And the Durst filmmakers were stomping all over the gray areas, as they wrestled with their film. They were dealing with someone they believed was a murderer. He was also a rich murderer who had already shown a willingness to don disguises and run from the law. And they also knew that their actions could inadvertently impact the investigation, making it even harder to convict a guilty man.

In a round of interviews after the final episode aired — and Durst had been arrested, –filmmakers Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling said detectives had reviewed key parts of the series “months” before it aired. Jarecki is shown in the series stashing the so-called “cadaver” letter, a key piece of evidence, in a safe deposit box. But the filmmakers were clearly afraid their silence could have repercussions and chose to let detectives see at least parts of the series before it aired.

Jarecki told the New York Times:

“We need to be careful about how much we describe about the details of the case, so what we’ll say about that is we provided the relevant evidence to law enforcement some months ago, and it’s been in their court. And obviously they’ve got their own timetable for how to address it.”

Once the series started to air, the filmmakers confronted a new set of fears, Jarecki said. They weren’t sure how Durst, a man they believed was capable of murder, was going to react to the series.

From the interview with The Times:

“We were obviously glad that they made the arrest. We were concerned that Bob was floating around, and we knew that Bob had been upset about Episode 5. We had anticipated he would be upset about Episode 5. The truth is, we had reached out to law enforcement to try and get color about when they planned to arrest him. Because as civilians, one always assumes that law enforcement is going to move more quickly than they naturally do. We understand why they have to be cautious. We understand they have obligations that filmmakers don’t have. But we were nervous. We had security.”

Now that the case is back in the legal system, Jarecki and his crew are entering murky waters. They are filmmakers, not journalists. They created a compelling study of Durst, but it is a TV series, a piece of entertainment, including ominous music and nightmarish re-creations. The filmmakers are artists telling a story, using their evidence for dramatic impact.

Durst’s so called confession at the end of “The Jinx” made for a spine-tingling conclusion to the series, but it was hardly a smoking gun, in a legal sense. The filmmakers had already documented his strange self-dialogue, which could easily be written off as the babbling of a doddering old man. After all, Durst admitted to cutting up a man with a saw and dumping the remains in the Gulf of Mexico and still managed a not guilty verdict.

The handwriting on the so-called “cadaver” note is more compelling evidence. But a jury under the influence of Durst’s well-paid legal team may find that slim evidence, if the prosecutors still can’t physically place Durst at the scene of the crime. The filmmaker’s handling of this key piece of evidence could become a central point of contention. O.J.’s lawyers made the chain of evidence into an elaborate conspiracy.

Durst attorneys will certainly use the series against the prosecution. Can Durst get a fair trial? Anybody who has seen or heard of the documentary will almost certainly have a pre-conceived opinion about his guilt. With it’s haunting music, skeptical tone and ah-ha dramatic moments, the series screams “Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!”

If the case goes to trial, Jarecki and Smerling are going to face intense scrutiny from defense attorneys. In court the filmmakers will certainly seek to receive protection from identifying their sources, editing choices and investigation techniques, just like other journalists.

But this is dicey territory. Some courts have not recognized independent filmmakers and bloggers as journalists, even though they are often producing cutting edge investigators, revealing stories untouched by traditional media.

The filmmakers are facing a barrage of legal questions. Will they turn over raw footage? What about their notes? Will they testify for the prosecution?

Jarecki and Smerling might regret their early interviews, when they fanned the flames, calling Durst’s audio “chilling.” Soon after the final episode aired, they clammed up, noting in a statement, “we are likely to be called as witnesses in any case law enforcement may decide to bring against Robert Durst.” Whether they like it or not, the storytellers are now a big part of the story.

Kevin Brass has covered media for the Los Angeles Times, San Diego Magazine and the Austin Chronicle. He is the author of “The Cult of Truland,” a satirical novel set in the world of celebrity journalism.

More from Kevin Brass:

The Real Reason Brian Williams is Toast

The ‘Colbert Bump’ Impact on Mocking


The Real Reason Brian Williams is Toast

Brian Wlliams nightly newsNBC anchor Brian Williams may have survived lying about his war record in Iraq, if it was simply an offhand remark to David Letterman. News anchors are habitual blow-hards who often inflate their stories to help create their own self-myth. Telling a little white lie on a talk show is almost expected, part of the job of promoting the nightly news.

If it was nothing more than a talk show gaffe, Williams could have shrugged off the revelation that he really wasn’t flying in a helicopter hit by a rocket-propelled grenade during the Iraq War. He might have tossed it aside as simply a late night slip, one of those things that comes out at the wrong moment. A quick apology, a few mea culpas, some hearty laughs about bad memory, and Williams would be back on the air.

But as soon as he incorporated his little white lie into a news story, he was toast. Reporting the incident on air as actual news separated Williams’ hubris from the realm of stupid party boasts. He crossed the most sacred of journalism lines and now he must face the consequences.

There is no way Williams “misremembered” the helicopter story. You don’t forget that you were actually in the helicopter that was not hit by a rocket, instead of the one that was actually hit. We’re not talking about an event from ancient days; it was 11 years ago. Some newsmen can remember what they had for breakfast 11 years ago. There is no quick explanation for why Williams thought he was in the helicopter forced down in the desert, unless he is delusional in a very dark manner. If Williams was willing to fudge the truth on the Iraq story, then it is completely reasonable to question what else he fudged over the years.

Yet, before we burn him at the stake of the righteous, let’s keep in mind he was a news anchor and news anchors are typically creations of illusion and truth stretching. They are presented as serious news personnel, toughened reporters who can be trusted with your news. But most anchors are nothing more than news readers, capable of looking good on camera and enunciating with flair. They provide a hint of a frown at the right time; maybe the rise of an eyebrow. Their journalism is relegated to punching up their scripts and standing where the producer tells them to stand.

The networks spend millions creating images for these anchors, which may have little connection to reality. Anchors don’t need to be reputable reporters, but they do need to be able to act like one.  “The remarkable thing is not that [Williams’] war exaggerations have been found out, but that he’s managed so confidently to pull off the network anchor role for so long,” Michael Wolff wrote in the Hollywood Reporter.

“He is America’s most prominent newsman but never has reported the news. He is the managing editor of a news organization, once among the largest in the country, that has been stripped down to the barest bones. He has assumed the mantle of network anchorman, as though it is a job that still commands the greatest stature and gravitas, but which, everyone understands, is mere relic now. He gamely continues the conceit that the network news broadcast is one of the primary sources of news for most Americans — at best a nostalgic, if not comical, notion.”

Williams’ main role was as “an in-house, all-purpose corporate face and moderator,” for the corporate owner of the network, Wolff notes.

As a corporate spokesman, Williams could have overcome the fallout from his lie about his war experiences. Anchors are all built on little white lies. But there is no way NBC can present him as its icon of credibility and trust after he so clearly lied in a news story. No amount of makeup or snappy commercial spots will clean up that image.

Kevin Brass writes for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and many others. He is the author of “The Cult of Truland,” a satirical novel set in the world of celebrity journalism.

Hollywood Foreign Press Association Deserves Respect

Golden_Globe_Awards_signsIt’s easy to make fun of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the notoriously rag tag group of journalists behind the Golden Globe awards. Their awards have been elevated to Oscar minor league status, even though it often seems like the voters are nothing more than a group of Euro fan boys, voting for their favorite stars.

As an organization, the HFPA is often mocked for its scruffy membership, which for many years hovered around 100 writers of mostly questionable backgrounds. In many cases, the writers were part-timers who seemed to spend most of their time at junkets, sucking down free food and gifts from the studios. Publicists were known to behave like squealing porn stars at the sight of a gaggle of drunk French cinema essayists.

But maybe that’s changing. And maybe it’s time to reconsider the ol’ HFPA jokes.

By honoring “Boyhood” this year, Richard Linklater’s simple story of a family growing up together, the Foreign Press Association has provided a real service to the industry. They have given credit to a worthy film, a piece of art, which will has been nominated for several Oscars, but more than likely will be largely ignored at the ceremony.

In this role, the Golden Globes and the HFPA’s growing legitimacy can help turn the spotlight to different types of pictures, even giving small films the coveted post-award sales bump. A Globe is not an Oscar, not even close. And, sure, the Golden Globes have had their embarrassments. (See: Pia Zadora). But the Oscars have made their share of bonehead choices, too. (See: Renee Zellweger, “Cold Mountain”; “Rocky” beating “Taxi Driver”)

The Oscars get it wrong over and over again, just in a different way than the Globes. The Academy’s bias toward schmaltzy Holocaust films and lovable elder statesman trumps logic year-after-year, and they have just as many fan boy favorites as the derelict Globes. The Oscars are just as clubby as the Golden Globes, it’s just an older and richer club.

The stuffy Academy is famous for giving a begrudging nod to small and quirky films, but withholding the real honors. This could be a completely wrong, but the Academy is unlikely to share the love with Linklater. He largely works out of Austin and while he is beloved, he doesn’t play the Hollywood game in the same way. And “Boyhood” was a subtle, moving work that played with film-making – elements the Academy rarely rewards. The Academy members prefer message films like “12 Years a Slave,” last year’s Best Picture winner, which was a fine studio production, hitting all the right notes.

The Academy could learn something from the grungy Foreign Press Association. Every once in a while it is OK to pay tribute to art, to forsake the model and give the statue to someone who is not targeting the multiplexes in quite the same way. The Golden Globes succeed in ways that should make the Oscars jealous. The Globes telecast is actually fun, capturing the glamour of Hollywood, without the pretense and arrogance of the Oscars.

By honoring “Boyhood,” the Foreign Press Association has taken control of the high ground this year, and we’ll soon learn where the Academy stands when it chooses its Best Picture.

Kevin Brass writes for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and many others. He is the author of “The Cult of Truland,” a satirical novel set in the world of celebrity journalism.

Sony Provides Textbook Case on Bad Crisis Management

SonyAs we all wallow in the juicy goodness of Sony’s leaked e-mails and contemplate the potential for a Seth Rogen film to spark global nuclear conflict, let’s take a moment to focus on what might be the worst crisis management campaign in history.

Faced with an unprecedented calamity, the executives of one of the world’s most powerful media companies flopped around like speared salmon, making things worse at every step.

From the start, Sony has made almost every wrong move possible. They had no response to how and why the organization was vulnerable to attack, allowing the story to settle into the gleeful schadenfreude of the leaked e-mails, which generally reveal Sony executives as crude and vaguely racist misogynists. Instead of a rapid response move to emphasize that Sony was the victim of a horrendous terrorist attack, the story settled on the relative dickishness of various Sony executives.

With reams of data and e-mails already floating around the Internet, Sony then decided to threaten media organizations and try to get them to stop publishing the information, a laughable exercise. Famed attorney David Boies was sent out to try to corral the oiled pig. More than one observer noted the irony — at the same time Sony was defending its right to release a movie, the studio was trying to suppress news organizations’ free speech. Sony apparently was surprised to discover that media companies have their own attorneys, who were well-versed in these sort of cases.

Responding like a raccoon quivering in a corner, Sony then decided not to release the film, leading to a public shaming by the President of the United States. And that instantly sparked 24-hour coverage portraying Sony execs as wimps and appeasers. The company responded by trying to blame theater operators, their partners, a cheap shot the operators probably won’t soon forget. Perhaps even more worrisome for Sony, the creative community lined up to express their outrage, something no studio can afford.

As they struggled to gain their footing and explain the company’s dilemma, they only dug a deeper hole. CEO Michael Lynton went on Fareed Zakari’s show looking like he just got out of the shower. His responses were defensive and weak, as he tried to explain why Sony had no choice but to capitulate to the North Korean oppressors, or the theater operators, whichever you believe are more horrible.

At this point, Sony was moving into uncharted waters. Very few companies hit this level of self-destructive horror. Perhaps management realized it, so they immediately searched for ways to release the film, to show the world it was, in fact, a company with cojones.

The result was the lukewarm announcement to release this very important film in independent theaters, a choice that was apparently unavailable a few days earlier. And then there was the hurried Christmas Eve announcement that yet another choice had been discovered – a digital release, which comes across as a desperate attempt to make a few bucks off the controversy, while take yet another swipe at their theater operator friends.

It’s too late. Not only will no one forget Sony’s early capitulation, the half-assed release will certainly sap any potential opportunity to make a splash with the film down the road. The digital release ensures that Sony shareholders will see little return from this debacle.

Heads are going to roll, no doubt. Sony management allowed the hacker attack to escalate into an international crisis — all over a silly movie about assassinating the dictator of North Korea, a circumstance that could have been averted by simply calling the country, say, East Kortea, instead.

Everyone would have still gotten the joke. Instead, Sony is the joke.

Kevin Brass writes for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and many others. He is the author of “The Cult of Truland,” a satirical novel set in the world celebrity journalism.

The ‘Colbert Bump’ Impact on Celebrity Mocking

Colbert_SquareWith the demise of “The Colbert Report,” TV has lost its best mocker. There are better interviewers and funnier sketch artists, but nobody mocked better than Stephen Colbert, the character, in full stride. His ability to walk the thin line between parody and cruelty was unmatched, and may never be equaled.

That’s a difficult to line to walk. He was pompous, overtly racist and demeaning of everyone. And yet it was impossible not to laugh and enjoy the mocking, even if it may hit close to home. The only TV character to come close to the same line was maybe Archie Bunker, Carroll O’Connor’s armchair Nixonian, who put a face to a generation of bigots.

In an age when every cable pundit sneers at their opposition, Colbert made it fun to mock again, returning satire and humor to a humorless industry. In the process, Colbert separated the world into people who got the joke and those that were the joke.

Making fun of the famous came with a sophisticated edge for Colbert. He allowed us to laugh at the buffoonery of their day to day antics. Blowhards were always his favorite targets. He skewered the pompous. But managed to switch to a gentle smile when dealing with those that were simply stupid.

In many ways, Colbert was far more subversive than Jon Stewart, who works from the traditional fake news format. Colbert did it from within, by becoming one of them, using the punditocracy’s own words, mannerisms and zealous self-importance to undermine their pedestal. He embraced their talking points and made them his own. We all could recognize the thread of reality in Stephen Colbert, the character.

Colbert will go down in history for injecting that character into the political dialogue, blurring the lines between a fictional asshole TV pundit and the assholes on TV every day. But he went further, taking on the silliness of celebrity and the personal shallowness that invades the rich and powerful. Much like Lisa Kudrow’s self-absorbed character in “Comeback,” his personal idiosyncrasy’s and view of daily life were a clear window into the shallowness of celebrity and fame obsession, a vivid profile of people convinced of their entitlement.

More than any other comedian, Colbert provided a daily caricature of the corrupting influence of fame. Stephen Colbert, the character, was convinced of the righteousness of his own place in the world, even though he did not have a single definable skill. It didn’t matter. He was famous. And fame was a lifetime gold stamp to get in front of the line. That’s just the way it is, get over it, Stephen Colbert explained night after night.

Political satire will go on, and new voices will emerge, but nobody will hit the same note as Colbert, that pitch-perfect mock.

Kevin Brass writes for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and many other publications. He is the author of “The Cult of Truland,” a satirical novel set in the world of celebrity journalism.