Digital Democracy

A blog for the course New Media and a Democratic Society

Political Knowledge: Serious Comedy

Posted by clocke22 on October 10, 2010

I watched the Oct. 4 and Oct. 5 episodes of The Daily Show. The first featured a story on U.S. syphilis experiments in Guatemala, army policies and failing schools.  The second show featured coverage of CNN’s Rick Sanchez being fired for his comments about Jon Stewart and author Sam Harris.  After watching these, I browsed Google News.  I started scrolling down the main stories in the center of the page, clicking on links to a story about the Chilean miners (thank God they get out soon!), the breakup of Ben Harper and Laura Dern, a N.C. girl missing, and a Congressional candidate who used to do Nazi reenactments. There were lots of sports stories in the main feed, which I was not interested in, so looked to the right sidebar at “spotlight” and “popular” stories.  I read about a girl kidnapped 26 years ago by her mom who just found out and a recent Duke grad who took the time to make a 42-page PowerPoint “thesis” about her “horizontal academics” with Duke athletes.  I skimmed an article and then watched a video because I was interested to see what exactly she put in there.  I liked one expert’s comment: “If it’s shared online, it’s shared with the entire world.”  Of the stories I looked at, I had prior exposure to all but the N.C. girl missing (which I looked at because I have family in North Carolina, and wondered if it was near where they lived) and the Nazi-reenactment politician (shock and awe factor).   There were no stories that directly correlated to the issues I watched on The Daily Show.  I think my experience was somewhat similar to the Xenos and Becker respondents, though I did not seek much political or foreign policy content.  But I did seek out things that I had been exposed to before – a friend told me yesterday about the Duke scandal, I had previously watched video of the trapped miners, I heard about the long-lost girl on the radio.  In that sense, I did seek out things I had been exposed to, and maybe that plays into what happened in Xenos and Becker’s experiments.  As for Baum’s argument that soft news can increase learning (though not necessarily long term) and that even if facts aren’t retained, “feelings” are, I very much agree.  I don’t see much distinction between The Daily Show and the evening news: facts are facts; video clips of politicians speaking are the same.  The intent of the viewer might be different, but the essential “news” is often the same, so it seems obvious that there would be some connection.  It seems like The Daily Show is also a bit of a “meta-news” experience in that it employs clips from other news outlets and stories (i.e., using outside clips to illustrate its stories).  I wonder how that two-step analysis is figured into the research of Baum, Xenos and Becker.


6 Responses to “Political Knowledge: Serious Comedy”

  1. clocke22 said

    These are my comments, although I just realized I was not logged in when I left them. I can re-post the comments if you’d like:(

  2. I entirely agree with your point that The Daily Show is more like meta-news. When it comes to the topics presented on the program that I actually follow up on, they are always the original broadcasts that John Stewart cuts together to expose the circus that traditional television news often ends up being. Your point that facts are facts is entirely valid, and I think that is what The Daily Show does best. It isolates the facts by highlighting the hypocrisy or utter insanity of the framing used by other news outlets. I realize that the writers of the show most likely have a particular political frame that they filter their content through, but it certainly seems to be to a lesser extent then the providers the regularly hang out to dry.

  3. Xuerui said

    I like your idea of The Daily show is like meta-news. When I watched the show, I had no idea of what Jon was talking about on some events. So I had to Google the events he mentioned during the process. After the show, I did have the “feeling” for more political information but not that motivated. The show definitely, to some extent, encouraged me to higher level of involvement of political issues. But who I am does not change this quick. After looking at several blog posts of ours, I found we tend to have same feeling. I wonder if there would be any differences to other generations, like our parents still go to newspapers or online news stations for more information, right?

  4. Sijia said

    By looking at your Google news experience, I really think that the static information board the two authors applied in their study could be problematic. The first thing came to my mind it the amount of news stories the information board provided. If it only provided very limited news topics, then of course people would choose the ones that they found less relectant to read. In real life, they may not read any of them. I guess it comes back to the question we’ve discussed during the class: How well this fake website was made?

  5. tinamomo said

    I think you pointed out a very interesting phenomenon while surfing Google news: we paid lots of attention on the news we’ve been exposed to before. For news like nature disasters or homicide investigation, we have to follow them every day to learn the latest progress and new updates. At some point it’s a bit like watching a Television show although the motivation is different. I also think that for less politically interested viewer like me, if I choose to watch a political comedy without switching the channels, I must have a very solid reason to do so. It’s different from watching evening news as you wouldn’t know what’s gonna be there. My Google news surfing experience is a bit different from yours as I do not follow news everyday and I don’t own a television. As a result, I only choose news that interests me. For example, I did a lot of research on the newest Nobel Peace Price winner Liu Xiaobo, who I wasn’t familiar with.

  6. “In that sense, I did seek out things I had been exposed to, and maybe that plays into what happened in Xenos and Becker’s experiments.” I think you’re right about that — unless a story has already been overdone, we seem likely to check in on stories we already know about.

    As for The Daily Show being a “meta-news” experience — I’m reminded that another student noted that Jon Stewart more and more often comments about the news media and how they cover things — meta indeed.

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