Home > Uncategorized > Blog 9: Late night political comedy: soft or hard?

Blog 9: Late night political comedy: soft or hard?

After a slight break in blogging I am back and ready to tackle a debate that has been discussed for years.  Is political satire television a form of hard news?  If they are news, do these shows promote political participation and help citizens adhere to the democratic process?

To answer my first question, I will first differentiate between soft and hard news.

“Hard new generally refers to up-to-the-minute news and events that are reported immediately, while soft news is background information or human-interest stories.” (The media awareness network)

Know that we have a basic understanding of what soft and hard news is it will become easier to decide if these late night political shows are hard news.  While I do believe that these shows, for example Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, deal with “hard news,” I think that they fall under a different brand of news entirely.  The interesting thing to me is how much of Jon Stewart’s contains news clips from prominent sources.  The people watching his show are exposed to nearly the same multimedia packages only they are framed in a satirical way.  It is also interesting to note that not only does Jon Stewart integrate guests from traditional “hard news” outlets, but in recent years he had been a guest on various hard news talk shows, such as crossfire.

So the question remains, are shows like Jon Stewart’s hard news? I believe the answer is no but with an asterisk.  As stated in the article Moments of Zen by Michael A. Xenosa; Amy B. Beckerb, I believe that these shows act as a gateway towards more political involvement.  This way citizens will seek out or at least recognize hard news when they see it from more traditional media outlets.  The truth of the matter is that the majority of Americans are uninformed about political workings therefore uninterested in sitting through or reading about hard news.  Therefore, if Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert can at least incorporate some sort of political interest among the people by packaging political news in a comical way then this can only help democracy.  The way I see it is that if these politically uninformed people were not watching The Daily Show, they most certainly would not be watching CNN.  It is better to have some sort of political involvement than none at all.

The idea of the gateway effect states that people who do watch these shows and are not politically involved are more likely to seek out information and become more involved in the democratic process.

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