Recently, the White House Correspondents dinner has made me think about the use of comedy in politics and news in general, and how the popular comedy news sources are still under fire as not being legitimate forms of news information.
Comedy Central shows like “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” have become more successful over the years following an upward trend as traditional news sources and newspapers are going out of business. This information isn’t new, but it is surprising to see the shift over the last 13 years.
In a 2009 study that shocked many people in the journalism world, 21 percent of 18 to 29 year olds said that these comedy shows were their main source of news, growing from 9 percent in 2000. Only 23 percent said they found information from the broadcast news sources, which had fallen
from 39 percent.
Since the creation of journalism, there has always been news satire, one of the most famous satirists being author Mark Twain. There is obviously a trend for younger audiences toward these comedy news sources. So why are so many people fighting the idea of using comedy in journalism?
I understand the main goal in journalism is to write with objectivity, to present the facts and let the audience decide how to view a story. But like Rachel Smolkin wrote in her 2007 article, there are many things journalists can learn from shows like John Stewart’s, including audience numbers.
As readership for major news sources goes down, maybe variety and comedy is exactly what is needed to keep people reading. There should still be a commitment to the facts, but after seeing five or eight or ten of an article with the same facts on major news websites, I’m not going to want to read another boring article with the same information.
Instead, as so many people in my generation are now doing, I’m going to go to YouTube and watching interviews by Zach Galifianakis. Wouldn’t it be great if news media could begin to try and break into this audience market?
Though news shows like the ones on Comedy Central may not be giving us all the news information we need, they still make us more informed than we would be otherwise. If more news sites began to engage a younger audience with comedy, it would be much easier to get people to pay attention to the stuff that counts.
I’ll admit that one of the reasons I kept informed during the 2012 election was because I wanted to know who the people were that I was laughing at while watching the Bad Lip Reading videos. And though I sometimes disagree with its choices, The Onion tweets on my twitter feed are often a welcome break from the monotony of news information.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate traditional news, but sometimes I want variety. Sometimes I want to be able to agree with journalists because they are showing me their opinions. Sometimes I want to laugh because I know that other people in the world are seeing the same ridiculousness I am, and aren’t afraid to call others out on it.
Olivia Marovich can be reached at