Tuesday, October 10, 2006

No Laughing Matter

In undergrad I had a Sociology professor who told the class we were required to follow the news, but we should not look to broadcast news programs as a reliable source—except for “The Daily Show.”

Apparently, she knew what she was talking about.

According to a recent study by an Indiana University telecommunications professor, the Comedy Central show has about as much substance as the evening news programs on ABC, NBC and CBS, which isn’t very much.

Professor Julia Fox and two graduate students analyzed coverage of the 2004 presidential election and the first Bush-Kerry debate on “The Daily Show” and CBS, NBC and ABC evening news. They found that like “The Daily Show,” the evening news programs don’t have much substance, which they wrote “should give pause to broadcast news executives in particular, and more generally to all politicians, citizens and schools concerned with the important information function that mass media, particularly television new sources, serve in our democracy.” (To read Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Daniel Rubin's blog on the study, click here.)

It sounds bad, but I think there’s still hope for television news programs. It’s no secret that young viewers are tuning into “The Daily Show” and other comedic sources and turning away from traditional news sources. But as another professor pointed out in a USA Today article last month, to fully understand Jon Stewart’s humorous takes on the news, you have to already know something about the stories, which means people aren't relying solely on "The Daily Show."

Also, the fact that people are watching “The Daily Show” suggests that they have an interest in news and the political process. So why are they turning to a comedian? Maybe because in addition to making them laugh, he appears to be one of them.

Over the years, journalists have lost touch with their readers/viewers. People don’t trust the media like they used to, and they don't feel that we are truly fighting for them. Rather than trust news outlets, people are turning to someone who doesn’t take himself that seriously and is willing to poke fun at and call into question the behavior of public officials. Granted, Stewart can make his opinion known in a way that a news anchor cannot. But he’s also a real person; he asks the questions we’re considering and says what we’re thinking. If journalists can find a way to make a similar connection with viewers without compromising their professional values, then maybe they can get their audiences back.

Posted by AJ


At Tuesday, October 10, 2006, Blogger Abelard in Espanola said...

And he's really attractive in an odd sort of way. Hooo. And good post!

At Tuesday, October 10, 2006, Anonymous TD said...

I am going to be honest here. I am NOT a fan of " The Daily Show." It just seems ridiculous that people can slam Fox News and then embrace this type of news show.

I know that it is not considered mainstream media, but I still find it completely biased. I actually refuse to watch it.

I do think that those who watch the show are educated with current events. Eventually, the viewers will probably swtich to a more legitimate news source that doesn't crack jokes every five seconds about our leaders.

Stewart does have a way of connecting with viewers-- something that you don't see very often. If news executives can learn from his ability to reach out (minus the extreme bias), regular evening news shows will be just fine.



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