Posts Tagged ‘Jon Stewart’

Reinventing Post-Racial Journalism

February 17, 2009

In the past two blog posts I’ve given examples of how the media can frame minorities to perpetuate commonly-held stereotypes. The news has portrays Michael Steele as the Republican party’s token model minority, and Roger Barnett’s justification in threatening immigrants with guns and dogs. The question posed is “why do news networks do this, and how do they get away with it?” The answer lies is in the ratings and markets that news networks are constantly trying to improve upon.
In a 2002 Pew Research Center study broadcast news saw a large decline in viewership from 1993-2002, the largest decline was in the in the 18-24 year-old demographic. In 2004 the Pew Research Center conducted another study, which found that this demographic gets most of its news from late night talk shows. Noticing this trend, news networks have taken a turn towards what some might cal “news lite,” news that is fuses entertainment with informational content. This has led to great performances by Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck, Rachel Madow, Chris Mathews, and of course, Bill O’Reilly. (see talking points 2/16)

However, the greatest performance, and perhaps the most interesting example of news entertainment is the Daily Show host by comedian Jon Stewart.
In his article The Daily Show: Discursive Integration and the Reinvention of Political Journalism, George Baym explains how the structure of the show as “joke news” gives the program a unique opportunity. The nature of its structure as “fake news” allows the program “interweaves two levels of discourse, borrowing from equally from traditions of authoritative nightly news and the entertainment talk show.”
This structure of a news program that is comedy makes the show inherently a satire of news media. Interviews conducted by bored and stupid Daily Show correspondents are commentary on the way reports are conducted. In this way, The Daily Show plays a crucial role in keeping the media in check and uncovering the post-racial rhetoric that other networks might embrace. For instance, for segments that deal with Black History Month they have a “senior black correspondent.”

In doing so the Daily Show displays the transparency of other major news networks that have a token minority give the token opinion on Obama or black history. The show is quick to pick apart the post-racial discourse often seen in the news. They even picked up on something I did.

Another aspect of The Daily Show that sets it apart from other cable news broadcasts is the interviews. While the interviews on shows like Crossfire or The O’Reilly factor often descend into what Baym calls “verbal combat” interviews on The Daily Show are essentially “marketing devices” where the interviewee is trying to sell a product with civil conversation instead of a fierce shouting match. Baym argues that this encourages “deliberative democracy” which “understands the political system ideally to be comprised of individuals engaged in reasoned discussion.

By criticizing the mainstream media, and encouraging political discourse that is civil and productive, The Daily Show has proven its worth to 21st century journalism. However, what is most valuable about The Daily Show is it’s popularity in the 18-24 demographic. The program has proven that news, politics, and journalism are not the issues of an older generation, and as such has undoubtedly inspired a new wave of journalists.