Is Policital Satire More Effective Than The News?

By Kelsea Graham

Yesterday, The Daily Show host Jon Stewart announced that, after 17 years, he is leaving the show. The exact date is unknown, but is expected to be between September and December. Comedy Central featured Stewart’s announcement on their Youtube Channel:

Stewart is not the only political satirist with avid followers and fans. Steven Colbert, John Oliver, and website the Onion are a few others. So, why is political satire so popular?

According to TechDirt both Stewart and Oliver have denied being journalists. For not being a journalist Stewart is more trusted by viewers than most news anchors. The New York Times even says Stewart is as trusted as Edward R. Murrow or Walter Cronkite.

By mocking the news and providing thorough and insightful opinons, political satirists are doing a better job of delivering the news. They are delivering truth to the public: a responsibility for journalists. Except people like Stewart are doing a much better job. Take John Oliver’s segment on Net Neutrality:

Oliver sums up Net Neutrality in a humorous way that just makes sense to some viewers. News sources have covered Net Neutrality. Or, they’ve at least thrown the word around. That’s just not enough to form a valid opinion. Consumers need to comprehend what is happening in the world; Not just know.

Stewart has an undeniably loyal fan base. Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of shares lamenting Stewart’s announcement. He assured viewers that Comedy Central will replace him with someone worthy and responsible, but it makes me wonder how long it will take viewers to trust this replacement.

What can news anchors do to gain viewer trust? Maybe have more comprehensive or thorough coverage. How do others feel about political satire vs. news reporting? Maybe some viewers don’t take life seriously enough to get their news from Fox or CNN. Or maybe they just have a great sense of humor.

Either way, Jon Stewart remains the face of political satire and his wit will certainly be missed.
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5 responses to “Is Policital Satire More Effective Than The News?

  1. I think that generalizing people who watch Stewart and others as people who, “…don’t take life seriously enough to get their news from Fox or CNN. Or maybe they just have a great sense of humor,” is a not necessarily true. People can take the news seriously and also enjoy the comedic take once in a while. Oftentimes, “journalists” like Stewart are making fun of Fox News and lean toward the liberal side of things. I think that if any generalizations were to be made, it is that people watch comedic/satirical news to have their liberal opinions solidified and backed up, along with a dose of comedy.

    • I guess I didn’t realize I was generalizing in that statement. It was mostly meant to be speaking for myself but didn’t want to write in first person; I just wanted to make some sort of conclusion. I do get news from sources like CNN, however, I don’t really process an opinion from a news segment on TV like I would while watching something like The Daily Show. That’s all I was trying to express. Like I said, generalizing was not my intention.

  2. I thought this was a really cool issue to explore because it contains so many implications for journalists. While watching CNN or even reading a newspaper, I often find myself getting bored. I generally push through that boredom because, as a journalism student, I know I need to be paying attention, but I’m sure that the average reader or viewer gives up. Just as we discussed in class, a news-consumer should not encounter hurdles while getting their news. Humor is a great way to eliminate those hurdles. The Net Neutrality video you posted was more than 13 minutes long, and I felt compelled to watch the entire thing. Taking that type of time is unusual for me because I’m busy and have other things I need to be taking care of. Yet, I was entertained, and therefore committed to watching the entire video, ultimately learning something important. But, as you said, Oliver, Stewart, and their cohorts do NOT call themselves journalists. Avoiding that title gives them more leeway than a self-described journalist will have. How can we, as future journalists, get rid of hurdles in our presentation of the news? Is there an appropriate way to use humor, even as a professional journalist?

  3. I think a lot of people looked to Jon Stewart for political criticism aimed toward both sides of our bipartisan political system. While Stewart did deliver bias on certain topics, he was also careful not to bash one party more than the other. Where Fox News gets a bad reputation for being a one-sided news source, Stewart got little backlash because he never claimed to be a news source. News shouldn’t be tainted—comedy can be. But Stewart also knew what he was talking about, setting him apart from other comedians.

  4. I would say that satire is a good supplement to news. Get your hard news somewhere else, preferably as unbiased as possible, and then settle in to watch the Daily Show or Colbert or whichever you prefer (I’m a big John Oliver fan personally). Like Jenny said, they don’t claim to be news sources, so they can throw in opinions and add humor. They can be scathing or grossly complimentary. But I do think there is definite value in political satire that is not be overlooked. Just make sure you’re getting your news from other sources, too.

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