Home > Uncategorized > Blog #8: Satire or Political News?

Blog #8: Satire or Political News?

Television shows such as The Colbert Report and The Daily Show have become overwhelmingly popular in our culture. In some cases, people are using these programs to obtain their political news more than they are using other more “reliable” sources. Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart have created a phenomenon that has given society an option to escape from the seriousness that political news usually entails  and provide an entertainment form of political news. It is important to examine though whether these “sources” are providing people with actual political news or if it is just a pure form of entertainment. There are many arguments to support both sides. Personally I feel as if these programs do provide political information, but they are not political news.

Political news, to be most effective in reaching the average consumer, should be unbiased and present the story in its original form. Obviously with the antics of Fox News and MSNBC, this type of information is hard to find these days. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have used this obvious biased in political media to poke fun at the respective parties and the extreme stances they take. They do though seem to have political biases themselves in doing this by tending to make fun of one party more than the other. Political news sources claim to be non-biased though and these satirical shows have consistently stated they are not attempting to remain fair. This biases though does not determine whether political satire can be classified as political news.

A main factor for me that distinguishes The Daily Show and The Colbert Report as purely entertainment is what researchers have named “The Daily Show Effect”. This idea focuses on the link between young people and political news. The average viewer of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report is between 18-24 years of age. This research is showing these young people are much more likely to obtain their political news from these shows rather than traditional political news sources. So what effect are these shows having on these young people? Many researchers are saying these shows are increasing cynicism in young voters and increasing their distrust about our government. One writer responds to this study by saying,

This is not funny: Jon Stewart and his hit Comedy Central cable show may be poisoning democracy…. Young people who watch Stewart’s faux news program… develop cynical views about politics and politicians that could lead them to just say no to voting.

Stephen Colbert seems to believe his program can be very beneficial to helping young people get more involved in politics. He contends it grabs their attention and this is one of the hardest things to do when it comes to young voters and politics. As he explains,

People are constantly saying ‘How’s it feel to have such an impact?’ I just want to be funny. I’m a comedian, not a political thinker. We’re changing the world one factual error at a time.

Here he seems to believe they are helping political news by pointing out their errors as sort of a check and balance system. In a way, I think this could be beneficial. It seems though most young people are using satirical political news not as fact, but as a source to provoke their interest in further researching a news story. It is for this reason I believe this can not be labeled political news.

Overall, I believe The Colbert Report and The Daily Show are doing a service by increasing young people’s interest in politics if they are indeed doing this and not reverting them into further cynicism. It is hard to reach they young voters of America and with their entertainment they have found a way to do it. If you want real political news though I’d say stick to the traditional sources.

For those who have never seen these shows here are clips to give you an idea of the overall purpose of these programs:

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  1. April 4, 2011 at 10:33 am

    You state that: “Political news, to be most effective in reaching the average consumer, should be unbiased and present the story in its original form.”

    Why is unbiased news more effective in “reaching” viewers? Are viewers more likely to watch this sort of news, or does unbiased news more often result in knowledge gain compared to biased news?

    Also, the first quote in your post is attributed to “one writer.” But I’m not sure who the writer is or where this quote comes from. Whenever you use a quote like this be sure to include a link to the original source. The link to the Daily Show Effect article is good, but it appears your first quote comes from somewhere else.

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