Brian Williams vs. Jon Stewart: Who’s really the bigger loss to news?

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(MEDIA GENERAL) – As the dust settles around two big announcements Tuesday night, the question remains: Which man, Brian Williams or Jon Stewart, is the bigger loss to television news? Both Brian Williams, anchor and managing editor of NBC’s Nightly News, and Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, have been credited with delivering news to millions of Americans over the years.

Stewart announced Tuesday night he’ll leave his post at The Daily Show at the end of this year. No exact timeline was given. NBC announced Brian Williams would be suspended without pay for six months while he attempts to restore his credibility after lying about being aboard a helicopter attacked by enemy fire in Iraq.

Photos: Careers Stewart helped launch »

In a Pew Research Center study conducted in January 2014, only 27% of Americans could identify who Brian Williams was. People who responded got to see a picture of Williams and more than 50% either didn’t know who he was or named someone else entirely. Some people thought he was Tom Brokaw, former NBC News anchor, or Vice President Joe Biden.

Thirty years ago, the results were much different. Americans spent more time watching nightly network news programs. And, nearly half of those asked could identify Dan Rather, who at the time was the anchor of the top-rated CBS Evening News.

Another study conducted by the Pew Research Center in September 2012, pointed out the importance of The Daily Show among the coveted 18-49 crowd. At the time of the study, The Daily Show was only second to Comedy Central’s Colbert Report in the amount of its audience comprised of younger viewers. Roughly 75% of The Daily Show’s viewers were under 49 years old. For network evening news programs, that number was 40% .

So, who will be missed more? The question isn’t an easy one. When writing about the subject, Poynter Institute contributor, Al Tompkins, wrote Wednesday, “We live in a time of odd news consumption habits, when one in five people admit that they get their news from sources they don’t necessarily trust.”

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