Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Jon Stewart: Hero of Democracy?

The WaPo apparently was pulilng it out of their ass when they alleged last year that The Daily Show may be bad for democracy (by making young people cynical, and -- in WaPo's unsupported, fevered conservative imagination, less likely to vote), but you know, it helps when your proof means what you think it means.

Let me sum up: Apparently, viewers of The Daily Show tend to be cynical about candidates, the electoral process, and the media -- which MAY lead to lower voting and apathy -- but no direct evidence of this was shown. Indeed, the actual study author's the WaPo was drawing from say that it could have such negative effects, but the researchers also mention the (also untested) possibility that TDS-inspired discontent may get people more involved. And indeed, studies in 2004, as I recall, showed that TDS viewers tend to be more informed than young viewers of other news programs, so, as the study said, "Participation breeds more participation and informed participation," and TDS may help viewers become more informed as they strive to "get" Stewart's humor.

Who knows, but the conservative WaPo apparently wanted to jump to a conclusion about Jon Stewart and whether he was hurting America.

No, wait, that was CNN's Crossfire, Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala.

n.b. Do you think WaPo will decide The 1/2 Hour News Hour (T1/2HNH), the conservative "answer" to The Daily Show, is also bad for America? Or is it too wretchedly bad to matter?

1 comment:

heidi said...

I've heard several interesting interviews with Stephen Colbert about the relative content-richness of his and John Stewart's respective shows. Turns out that Stewart weighs the precise amount of information to include in his riffs on political machinations carefully, and, while never the whole story, certainly includes more than the satire-driven Colbert.

I enjoy both shows, and can see how for Stewart, a hearty dose of news is pretty necessary - not the least of which because he does do rather up-to-the-day if not -minute "reporting" in some cases, and if you're not tied to CNN or the internet (or go *gasp* a day or two without tuning in), sometimes a Stewart briefing is the first thing you'll run across in your news day (not everyone has hours of time on their hands like Ph.D. students....)

This has less to do with the possible political atrophy provoked by Stewart-esque cynicism than the newsworthiness of the show (certainly I'd never argue that the Stewart-Colbert franchise should be anyone's major source of information) but I think we underestimate to what extent you actually can get a lay of the land by pretty passive information-gathering, and really, most people have neither the time nor energy for much more than that.