John Oliver's big topic on the latest Last Week Tonight was the crumbling wall between news and advertising, an invisible ethical forcefield that used to be known as the "separation of church and state."
Cue a clip of Time CEO Joe Ripp: "We took that away ... No longer are we asking ourselves the question 'Are we violating church and state?' Whatever that was."
Whatever that was.
Oliver argues that the seemingly benign practice of sponsored listicles—like the one HBO ran to promote his show—starts to seem a lot more sinister when it morphs into ads camouflaged as news. That's how you end up with Scientology press releases in The Atlantic and Chevron-sponsored stories about energy policy in the New York Times.
But what the hell are we supposed to do about it, when the old models of banner ads and print newspaper sales are beyond saving? It's a thornier problem than John Oliver can solve in a 10-minute cable TV segm— no, wait, he's got it: Just start sneaking news updates into popular commercials. That'll totally work.