For decades, news has been created and reported in a very similar fashion all around the world. It has been very effective and informational, but in more recent years people have begun to take satirical news a little more seriously. Although it is still considered “fake news,” there are millions of viewers who take it very seriously.
Satirical news has been on television since about the 1960’s and was mostly aired in Britain. NBC picked up the trend when the started creating shows like Saturday Night Live and Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. Comedy Central has been the most successful when it comes to creating “fake news.” Stephen Colbert’s The Colbert Report, had a very successful 9 year run. The Daily Show with John Stewart also one of the most prominent “fake news” shows in the United States. According to the 2004 National Annenberg Election Survey those who viewed the Daily Show regularly were better informed than those who relied on only traditional news outlets.
However, there was another study in the Journal of Communication that revealed that these satirical news shows may not be as effective at teaching voters about political issues and candidates. Ohio State University found that people watching traditional news learned more about a candidates stance on an issue and political processes than those who watched satirical news. The people that watched more satirical news learned more about a candidates personal background and opinions.
According to junior Fritz Merizon, a finance major at the University of Denver, “There will always be a need for both satirical news and traditional news, they almost work together to try to give you the whole story.”
It is quite and interesting theory Merizon points out, but how much truth can it hold. The majority of the time on a satirical tv show is taken up trying to make traditional news look wrong or too bias.
Another study done by Pew Research Center, reported on American’s media habits to find out how people are viewing satirical news. They found some interesting data that showed “about six-in-ten online adults have heard of The Colbert Report, and 10% get news there.” What makes it even more intriguing is that only 53% of adults have heard of NPR, and only around 32% have heard of The Economist and BuzzFeed.
Pew Research Center also found that “younger males are most likely to use and trust The Colbert Report as a source of news about government and politics.” Almost a quarter (22%) of 18 to 29 year old males got their news about politics from The Colbert Report. About twice as much as 18 to 29 year old women. This is quite the gap between gender groups, maybe due to the fact that the majority of satirical news hosts are male.
How much do Americans trust shows like the Colbert Report? Well roughly a quarter (26%) of consistent liberals get their political news from the show. This number is quite close to the numbers produced by The Huffington Post (29%) and CBS News (30%), but somewhat lower than the traditional sources including NPR (53%) and CNN (52%).
With these numbers its clear that more people trust traditional news networks over fake news. However, due to the nature of traditional news and the 24/7 network, much of the information viewers are receiving is quite bias and opinionated.
In an interview with Dr. Rachael Liberman, we discussed how satirical news has affected audiences political positions. Liberman is a visiting teaching assistant professor in the Department of Media, Film and Journalism Studies at the University of Denver.
Liberman said, “programs like The Daily Show and John Oliver have offered the public an alternative lens with which to form their political opinions.”
So according to Dr. Liberman, satirical news doesn’t necessarily do a better job at reporting the news, but it does provide a new perspective that allows for questioning of traditional news.
“Overall i feel the general effect has been a growing awareness for the power dynamics in both our political system and mainstream coverage” said Dr. Liberman about the effects of satirical news on politics.
Liberman goes on to talk about how it is important to consume information from both satirical and traditional news outlets.
“I think that satirical news is not necessarily ‘fake,’ and can be effective as part of a diet of diverse news sources.”
Here we see how it might not be important to distinguish the two types of news to find out which ones more effective. It is important to have a “diet” of different types of news sources to include different perspectives and opinions.
Liberman was asked about the future of satirical news, and whether it will become more popular or whether it is fading away.
She said, “I do not think that satirical news is a fad, but I don’t think it will become as overexposed as reality television or other genres that are exploited by the television industry.”
Even traditional news has been exploited with the 24/7 network that provides viewers with mostly meaningless news at all times of the day. Liberman believes that the satirical type of political commentary is successful and intriguing because”it is done very well.”
“The Daily Show and John Oliver have intelligent staff, anchors and supportive networks that allows them to investigate issues in a meaningful way” said Liberman.
These satirical shows are not constrained by a lot of corporate influence as networks like CNN and Fox are. They are allowed much more freedom and have much more time to developed and report a story.
When asked about the future of satirical news, Charlie Moore, a junior at the University of Denver had quite an interesting perspective.
“I think that satirical news is slowly dying off with the rise of more and more fake news websites and outlets. People like Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart were some of the best but now they’re gone.”
It was an interesting perspective to hear, Moore used to watch satirical news every day but now he said the quality has somewhat declined. He now uses mostly traditional news outlets to get most of his information on current events.
Overall, it is quite interesting to see how Americans are viewing satirical news versus traditional news. The future of these two types of news will be one to look out for.