Posts tagged ‘Pew Research’
As of late, the ways in which news is distributed are ever changing. Although the media format in which news is delivered has been a major focus in recent times, the feathers of journalism itself have been ruffled by satirical comedians such as Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert, and Bill Maher. These outspoken comedians have recently taken up a role of both informational value and integrity while offering up political news stories.
In a recent telephone interview, I had the chance to pick the brain of Ellen Graser, a 20 year old film student who is a regular viewer of both “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report.” When I asked her about her sources for news, she first mentioned reading the New York Times a few times per week. After pausing for a second, possibly from being embarrassed to admit this, Graser conceded that most of her political wherewithal came from the two political satirists she watched regularly- Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert.
“I don’t realize how much I’m, well, learning,” Graser says, “at least not until I’m having a conversation with someone about politics.”
In fact, in a survey conducted in April of 2007, The Pew Research Center found that 16% of those surveyed reported regularly watching “The Daily Show” and “Colbert Report.” Of those viewers, the survey showed that 31% were college graduates while 26% were between the ages of 18 and 29.
A few days after interviewing Ms .Graser, I had the opportunity to speak to another 20 year old college student, Scott Krevat. This interview went in a slightly different direction as Krevat is not a regular viewer of either programs, but rather gets his news from websites such as Reuters.com and AP.org. When I asked him about what he thought about political satirists delivering real information and news, Krevat said, “I think if it’ll get out there in a different way, then so be it.” He went on to tell me that while political satirists may not necessarily deliver news in a better or more informative way than traditional news sources, they are indeed “just as informing as normal news.”
One of the main objectives of traditional satire is to bring important issues to light. While many people perceive satire as plain sarcasm or humor, it is much more often in the form of a witty remark or statement. In her article entitled “Smart satire skewers dumb politics; Spotlight,” Patricia Maunder makes a point when she writes that “The Colbert Report…can easily be taken as pure comic fun. But the combination of improv and tight scripting delivers some searing insights.”
That is exactly the job of good, strong political satire. While The Pew Research Center’s survey states that “the fact that a particular news source’s audience is very knowledgeable does not mean that people learned all that they know from that source.” The good news is that may not be all that matters. The upside to this all is in the extra exposure to real political issues. Shows like “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” are on the air for their values in entertainment and comedy, yet the Pew Research Center’s survey revealed that 54% of these shows’ regular viewers could be classified as having a high knowledge category. To be in the high knowledge level, the respondents had to answer at least fifteen of twenty three questions regarding politics and current affairs correctly.
“Satire doesn’t make the weak strong, it simply gives vent to their frustration and contempt,” writes Simon Edge in his article “Parodies that keep politicians on their toes.” Edge goes on to discuss the ups and downs of political satire; he writes about political disaster as well as success drawn from satire. An important note that Edge highlights is “that satirists really ought to know as much about politics as the politicians.”
It would be too simple to state how intelligent and witty a satirist needs to be in order to be successful in today’s world. Comedians like Stewart, Colbert, and Maher are all continuing on their courses for success, but we must be careful to not brush them off as simple comedians. With satirists making a push for seriousness, the task at hand is becoming clearer. Al Franken has been in the limelight for some time now. After leaving Saturday Night Live and writing a number of satirical books on politics, Franken is now in a race for a seat in the United States Senate for Minnesota. It is clear now that satirists are more than they are generally given credit for.
Satire is often a part of a comedic routine. However, due to the increasing convergence of media, satire has been making its way into broadcast journalism. “I often get my news from The Stephen Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert or The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, to be honest,” said Sean Hendricks, an 18 year-old college freshman. The Pew Research Center found that only 11% of those ages 18 to 29 regularly watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. This begs the question: what is the impact of satirical news on the youth population?
Stephen Colbert is a well known comedian who currently is the host of The Stephen Colbert Report, which is a show airing from Monday through Friday on Comedy Central. Mr. Colbert’s big break came when Saturday Night Live bought his satirical comedy sketch called The Ambiguously Gay Duo. This sketch pokes fun at homosexual superhero’s named Ace and Gary. Mr. Colbert played the voice of Ace throughout the entire series. His next big break came in 1997 when he was asked to play a part-time role on The Daily Show. His success on The Daily Show eventually earned him his own show called The Stephen Colbert Report, which has been running on Comedy Central Since 2005.
On television Mr. Colbert plays the role of a right-wing cable news personality. This character role allows Mr. Colbert to poke fun at many of the day’s major news stories. Colbert uses satire to show all shades of the political spectrum; through playing a right-wing personality he is able to give the one side of the story, and by then using satirical comedy he is able to show how the left views this issue. However, Jon Stewart and his colleague Stephen Colbert are far from journalists, and do not place the same emphasis on objectivity. Through making fun the right-wing Mr. Colbert seems to marginalize the conservative viewpoint for the sake of satire.
However, to his credit Mr. Colbert is often the media personality that most effectively performs the essential media function of government watchdog. Using satire as a cover, he is able to shed light on issues that other more formal journalist refuse to touch. This was most evident during the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner in which Mr. Colbert used satire to make important political statements. While most journalist were praising the President, Colbert used his satirical routine to attack President George W. Bush for leading the country in a direction that was at odds with the will of the American people, and he also attacked the media for not shedding a light on President Bush’s dastardly deeds. By watching The Stephen Colbert Report citizens often get to see a part of the story that would otherwise go unreported by the mainstream media.
Mr. Colbert has successfully used a form of ambiguous satire to successfully shed light on important issues. Some other journalists have seen the success of The Stephen Colbert Report and have copied his technique; most notably Keith Olbermann host of MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann who each night airs a segment called “The Worst Person in the World”. Keith Olbermann like many others in the business have realized that comedy can play an important role in how we get our news. Apparently, 11% of our 18-29 year-old population has already discovered the importance of satire in the newsroom. Through realizing the importance that satire plays in exposing unsavory activities, the youth have opened themselves up to another stream of consciousness that allows them to make more informed decisions.