Hide your biases if you make the news.   Leave a comment

The October 6 Daily Show focuses on three major national news stories. Consistent with Jones’ claims about the show, Stewart goes beyond the basics of the stories and provides useful analysis on the events. In Stewart’s coverage of Sarah Palin announcing she will not run for president in 2012, he doesn’t simply state that she isn’t running and make the announcement funny. While making the story funny by calling Palin crazy for her campaign for nothing, Stewart also provides context and depth to the story.

He informs the viewer about Palin’s fundraising efforts, and the possibility that she was manipulative in making these efforts. Using a common satirical tool on the show, Stewart makes a seemingly ridiculous or far fetched claim without saying it is true. In this case the claim is that Palin’s fundraising would only have been unethical if she actually knew she wasn’t  going to run. Then, he shows a clip from ‘real news’ that confirms the ridiculous claim. In this case, the clip shows one of Palin’s daughters saying her mom knew whether she was going to run months before she made the announcement.

This tool provides comedic effect, but is also a perfect example of Stewart going above and beyond traditional coverage of Palin’s announcement. ‘Real news’ told us despite Palin’s apparent campaigning, she isn’t going to run. ‘Fake news’ told us Palin may have been manipulating campaign contributors.

Jones claims that this makes Stewart better than mainstream news programs. I agree with this claim. In many cases, including this one, Stewart provides insightful analysis of news events that other outlets gloss over. Jones also claims that an increasing number of young people getting their news through The Daily Show and other satirical news outlets (whether it’s true or not) is a good thing because of the depth Stewart provides.

I disagree with this claim. It may be good that young people don’t pay attention to traditional news, but it isn’t good if they get their news from an openly biased source. My personal political leanings align well with Stewart’s, but I know his leanings. In a news source, this bias-transparency is problematic. Stewart can provide in depth analysis in an easily digestible and funny way, but minus the humor, so could ‘real news.’

There is no reason a neutral news report couldn’t point out that Palin likely knew she was going to accept campaign contributions then not run. The objective facts Stewart uses to back up his Palin-bashing would be at home in a well reported news story. His claims bout her lunacy, and the conclusions he draws without offering Palin the opportunity to defend herself fall short of what a quality news report would deliver.

There is nothing wrong with The Daily Show. There is plenty wrong with the way traditional news outlets have let their subjects take advantage of the norms in the business. However, there is also something wrong with a source of news information taking sides. The Daily Show provides the same thing an opinion page does but adds a dash of satire to make it go down easier (and adds a dash of commentary on how news is covered). If Jones were analyzing a statistic indicating an increasing number of people are using opinion articles as news sources, I think he would reach a different conclusion.

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Posted October 17, 2011 by mgstott3 in Uncategorized

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