All Joking Aside... Daily Show has Substance

How'd you like that cheesey small-town-newspaper headline?

Indiana University research has shown that the Daily Show ranks right up there (or down there) with network news:

Julia R. Fox, assistant professor of telecommunications at Indiana University isn't joking when she says the popular "fake news" program, which last week featured Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf as a guest, is just as substantive as network coverage.


The study, "No Joke: A Comparison of Substance in The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Broadcast Network Television Coverage of the 2004 Presidential Election Campaign," will be published next summer by the Journal of Broadcast and Electronic Media, published by the Broadcast Education Association.

"It is clearly a humor show, first and foremost," Fox said of Stewart's program. "But there is some substance on there, and in some cases, like John Edwards announcing his candidacy, the news is made on the show. You have real newsmakers coming on, and yes, sometimes the banter and questions get a little silly, but there is also substantive dialogue going on … It's a legitimate source of news."


She and two graduate students at IU -- Glory Koloen and Volkan Sahin -- analyzed coverage of the 2004 national political conventions and the first presidential debate by the networks and Stewart's program. They examined broadcast nightly newscasts on July 26-30, Aug. 30-31 and Sept. 1-3 in 2004. Similarly, they studied episodes of The Daily Show on July 27-30, Aug. 31 and Sept. 1-3 in 2004.


Not surprisingly, a second-by-second analysis of The Daily Show's audio and visual content found considerably more humor than substance -- Stewart himself has insisted that he is a comedian and not a journalist. A similar analysis of network coverage found considerably more hype than substance in broadcast newscasts. Examples of such hype included references to polls, political endorsements and photo opportunities.

"Interestingly, the average amounts of video and audio substance in the broadcast network news stories were not significantly different than the average amounts of visual and audio substance in The Daily Show with Jon Stewart stories about the presidential election," she wrote in the paper.
As a BIG fan of the show, I guess I'm pleased that it's been found 'as substantive' as network news through scientific research.

Actually, I think I'm more alarmed that real news has been found to have no more value than a spoof show on Comedy Network that isn't shy about using poop jokes and photoshopped pictures for laughs.

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