Ooohhhh The Colbert Report. Ahhhhh the The Daily Show. The Political Takeover has began. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert (and their executives of course) have changed the way individuals receive political news as well as the audiences involved in this process.
So, IS IT POLITICAL NEWS?
Of course it is. Good Political News really has two jobs. The first is to present the facts. Of course this takes you into a WHOLE different discussion about left wing vs. right wing, political biases from network to network, or maybe even selective exposure in political awareness. The fact remains, the job of good political news is to present facts. The second job is to present sources to help the audiences do further research and form their own opinions.
Looking past the satirical approach to the news both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert do a fine job of these two jobs. And lets be honest – who doesn’t want entertaining news coverage (other than that straight faced guy three rows back with the glasses and the ascot on) – I’m just saying.
Is this presentation biased?
Of course it is. It is written and presented in a way that REGULAR people can understand and relate. (Probably wasn’t expecting that were you?) These satirical presentations are categorized as comedy to most. Comedy is an art form to where your average Joe (and Jane for the ladies) can comprehend. It is about time there is a presentation of news that doesn’t speak in the language of a specific people but in the language of people period.
These men want you to have just as much fun as they do. They want you to learn just as much as they do. If President Obama can joke with these men we can laugh – it is not un-American.
If news is simply defined as the reporting of current events, maybe shows like these can be defined as news shows. However, as a journalist I tend to believe that news should be held to higher standards than simply commenting on current events. Even if news is not completely objective, news sources should provide a complete, fact-based picture of a situation. And if the news source is openly opinionated, they should still present both sides of the argument. This is the kind of news provides audiences with comprehensive facts and information on current events, and provides them with the tools they need to become politically involved and educated citizens.
Does Comedy News Promote Political Participation?
I would argue that shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report do not promote this type of informed political participation. Although these shows do present a very strong opinion of various current events and political figures, this type of political information is not very valuable. Although viewers of these shows may feel that by watching these shows they become informed I think this is debatable. The stated purpose of these shows is entertainment and they information they present is extremely biased and does not give a complete picture of events. Based on these characteristics, I do not believe these shows promote intelligent constructive political participation. These comedy shows may cause viewers to turn to established news sources for less biased, fact-based information. However, if comedy shows are the only source of information for certain viewers then their political information will not be constructive to the democratic process.
The democratic process needs informed citizens to fuel political debate and hold public leaders accountable. However, if citizens are receiving their political information from a comedy-based, non-news source then the democratic process becomes the joke that comedy shows make it out to be.
I think that the Daily Show and the Colbert Report are really political news. Even though the main purpose of these shows is entertainment programming, viewers are still exposed to a variety of political information. These late-night comedy shows can be viewed as a gateway to traditional news. Watching these types of entertainmnet programs can lead to an increased level of participation to political news and information. People who watch either of these shows are exposed to ‘snipets’ of information and then turn to watch the traditional news to get further coverage on the issue.
I do believe that these shows are extremely biased. They provide a few words on what the political information is about, but then put their own spin and opinions on it if they have opposing views. For example, Jon Stewart clearly states his opinion about Peter King and his want to investigate American muslims while defending his ties to the Irish Republican Army. Stewart makes jabs at King for being a republican and continuously lets the viewers know that Stewart is not a big fan of King and his actions.
These late-night shows may also show bias when they invite guests onto their show to talk about certain issues. For example, a segement from the Colbert Report invites Geoffrey Canada onto the show and asks him questions about a recent speech that Obama just gave, in 2009. Since Canada can not seem to find any area where white men are being vicitmized, Colbert tweaks his own responses (and often cuts Canada off in the middle of a sentence) to fit the stance that Colbert himself has on the issue.
Although I do not regularly watch either one of these shows, the clips I have seen seem to promote political participation. Through their joking and equal choosing on partisan topics, these late night shows seem to want people to have an opinion and take a stance on these issues, in order to get the audience to actively participate in their segments.
To a certain degree, I do not think that it necessarily matters where Republicans and Democrats get their news from. In congruence to my previous blog about journalistic objectivity, I believe that if (being the key word in this sentence) major news networks report political information in an unbiased, straightforward manner, then it is up to the citizens to retrieve further information that may fit their own viewpoints.
Once a person hears political information from an unbiased source, I would certainly hope they would seek out different sources that pertain to their political partisanship.
For example, when a Democrat seeks out information from a strictly Democratic source, they are able to view facts that back up and support their side of the issue. Partisan-specific websites like Democrats.org acquire facts from various different news sources and compile them in one place. This allows the viewer to see more easily why the party thinks the way it does, and the biased facts help them understand how the party has arrived at their standpoint.
Another reason why people should seek out information from partisan-specific sources is that they may reinforce what the citizen already believes. For example, websites like the Missouri Republican may highlight issues, important to that specific party, that the main news networks may barely touch upon. In doing so, the citizen can come to a greater understanding on a certain issue.
However, if people only view sources that are in favor of their political party’s viewpoint, it might limit argument diversity that viewers of news networks might encounter and expose them strictly to bias information. All in all, citizens should retrieve their political information from a variety of sources. Democrats and Republicans should also seek out information form their partisan-specific sources in order to clarify, reiterate, and support the particular party’s beliefs and actions.
As is becomes more and more popular for the general public to gain their information through television and internet the main “problem” that comes to light is the biased views of one outlet compared to another.
When you talk to people they want to believe that they are watching a telecast that is objective. They want to believe that everything they watch isn’t geared towards one crowd or another. They want to believe that they are just given the facts and they form their own opinions. But think about this, if someone had never watched television before and had no political affiliation but was trying to form a stance they would first watch something that aesthetically appealed to their senses. They then would take in the information from the two different outlets and slowly, and sometimes subconsciously, lean one way more than the other. For example, if they happened to like Bill O’Reilly because of his personality and the way that the show was put together they would start to buy into the views of O’Reilly, which would result in a more conservative way of thinking. Because of this, the viewer, who at one time didn’t have a political stance would become a Republican simply because they tuned into Fox and started buying into the way of thinking like a right-winger. They could even end up in this category without necessarily believing in all the conservative thoughts and views but because the way that it was presented it makes more sense to them.
These news outlets hate to be tagged as a non-objective voice and will fight to the bitter end to prove that they are fair. Fox goes so far as to say “We report; You decide.” They know how everyone looks at them but they love to fight it and show cases where they feel like they are being completely objective. If they report the facts but not all the facts, mainly only the facts that benefit them, then are they being bias? I don’t think so and I think that’s how they think when they say that they aren’t biased.
Now let me put this into my language. I’m a big Missouri athletics fan so if I want to watch something about the basketball team I’m going to tune into the Mike Anderson show. On the other hand if I had only one channel on my TV and it was showing the Bill Self show I would throw my TV out the window just to be on the safe side. Why? Because I hate everything that has to do with Kansas and it would get me fired up, even if Missouri never entered their mouths, it’s just for the simple fact that Kansas is on my s&*# list and always will be. People feel the same way about politics, liberals are only going to get fired up and upset if they are forced to watch Bill O’Reilly. So just avoid it all together and you don’t have that problem!
But is this a problem with media politics? I honestly don’t think so. People are going to read what they want to read anyways so what’s so wrong with them getting their news from an un objective source? It seems like journalism is slowly moving in the direction of bias perspective, so let’s embrace it. If the news that’s being covered is big story then people will eventually do their own research if they care that much. I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to political coverage I can be pretty lazy. I’ll just end up taking the same opinions and sides as the television personalities, sometimes without even meaning to…but at least I’m taking a side and forming some sort of opinion, right?!
When you first think about this topic you’d like to believe the media and journalists should be objective because it only seems fair. My thought is however that having media that isn’t objective and is biased makes for such good television, news shows, and debates.
I wanted to find something that talked about media objectivity and broke it down into simple terms. Here’s a video I came across that satirically touches on the lack of objectivity in the media and with journalists.
For the most part I think that people already will form their own opinions even if the news that is covered isn’t objective, and when it comes down to it that’s what being objective is all about; putting the facts out there for people to form opinions. Call me new school in the way that I think but I enjoy people putting their opinions out there, it makes for good TV and gets people that are opposed fired up. Who doesn’t love conflict? Isn’t that why we watch Jerry Springer and shows like that? Hopefully that didn’t get confusing but when someone isn’t objective, or is bias, people get so angry and that’s when the claws come out and that when we begin to pay attention.
Let me break this down even further. If I were to write a story about how political figures look terrible in black suites then it would anger the people who think they look god in black suites. In turn, what this would do would give the opposition cause to speak out against my story. What has now happened is that we are going back and forth, which people love, and the story is now becoming popular which almost unconsciously teaches the viewers about the subject at hand!
Obviously it’s incredibly hard to be objective, it’s just human nature to be bias and in some way give your opinion. With that said, let’s just all embrace it and not worry and get all heated when the media isn’t objective! It’s a new wave of media and this is what’s put in front of us so why don’t we just look at all the positive things that it can do for us and go from there. Before I wrote this I was under the impression that journalists and the media should absolutely be objective and then as I read articles and really thought about myself as a reporter I began to realize how hard it would be to not include my opinion in some way. We all have opinions, lets not be a boring society!
It’s not that I think that objective political news is a myth. It’s not even necessarily that I think object political news is the end-all be-all necessity of “true” journalism. If anything, I recognize two truths: that it is nearly impossible to be fully objective in political news and that news would be damned boring if it was.
In my opinion, searching for pure, objective journalism–a journalism devoid of unique perspective or bias–is a bit like searching for Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket. The very nature of journalism is rooted in humans–human reporters, human perspective–so how does one propose to remove human subjectivity without removing the human itself? It’s a bit like the Hawthorne Studies–the very presence of humans affects how humans behave. Similarly, the very principle of being human makes political news susceptible to human subjectivity. Perhaps not a flawless analogy, but the principle is there.
And to that end, what would removing subjectivity really accomplish? In my opinion, political news can be divided neatly down the middle: it consists of the facts or “iron core” and of political opinions and analysis. As long as that iron core–the true, hard facts of events reported–covers the true depth of the event (example: if a reporter brings up an Israeli civilian death count, then that same reporter should also bring up Palestinian civilian death count), should a journalist’s potential subjectivity really matter? The concern I would have involves the misreporting or lack of reporting of critical details; if, past that core, journalists choose to analyze news one way or another, that’s their prerogative as living, breathing humans.
I mean, listen, I’m no fan of Glenn Beck, but, at the core of it, he has the rights to televise his opinions just as much as I do. I, as a critical citizen, should just know better than to take his words at face value.
And in some cases, I even appreciate the perspective because it might not be one that I have. Jay Rosen expresses it better than I do–
If in doing the serious work of journalism–digging, reporting, verification, mastering a beat–you develop a view, expressing that view does not diminish your authority. It may even add to it. – Jay Rosen, PressThink.org
So forget the anachronism of striving for an ideal that is impossible to reach, let’s look at it through the words of Voltaire: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. And to say it the way you want to as long as you don’t change facts on me. That’s when we’re going to have problems. xoxo!