Arts and Entertainment

Newspapers are old news

By Denebola
Published: November 2008

By Andrea Braver

No longer does the average high school student actually pick up a newspaper or watch a legitimate newscast to gain knowledge, Saturday Night Live, The Colbert Report, and The Daily Show are just a few of the shows that aim to poke fun at world current events, but to many teenagers they serve as legitimate news sources.

It is proven that teens view television programs that use satire as entertainment more than the average, straight-up news show.

The Paly Voice, an online newspaper that reports on the views of high school students regarding a myriad of subjects, states that “young people interested in politics and having a laugh are increasingly turning to television programs like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, and Real Time with Bill Maher for guidance.

These shows, although they have no intention, are inflicting a bias on their viewers.

If a satire succeeds in making fun of its subject, viewers may change their personal views to match those of the show.

Since so many of these shows have been poking fun at Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Arizona Senator John McCain, in light of the recent election, it is arguable that they played a contributing role in sending 2/3 of the young peoples’ vote directly to President-elect Barack Obama.

When Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin guest-starred on Saturday Night Live, the number of viewers the show received was at its highest in 14 years; a whopping 14 million Americans watched it live. Without a doubt a good portion of those viewers were young people who were watching to “get a laugh.

The average number of people watching Saturday Night Live on this particular night was more than seven times greater than that of CNN.

When a comedic show such as Saturday Night Live has more viewers than a news network, what does that say about our society and its values and interests?

“Teenagers find [shows like Saturday Night Live] more entertaining, which is reasonable. However they don’t realize that the point of those shows is to make fun of the news, not necessarily to report it accurately freshman Noa Golan said.

Many teenagers believe that watching shows such as Saturday Night Live or The Colbert Report allows them to loaf on the couch while being properly educated; it is not a win-win situation, however.

Television shows using satire are not meant for sheer education, but rather entertainment. By watching solely comedic shows, one will not actually be learning about recent world events.

Ohio State University conducted research that showed that “people who watch fake news shows learn far less about political issues and candidates than people who watch television news shows on networks such as CNN and NBC. The study also illustrated that “[shows that represent satire] are not as useful in learning about the issues and political procedures central to an election.

This study was not a pleasing insight to those at Ohio State, and many have realized that a drastic change must be made soon. According to Broadcasting and Cable (B&C), The Daily Show is averaging 1.8 million viewers per episode, with a high of 2.4 million on October 1.

The New York Times stated that Fox News has an identical average number of viewers as The Daily Show. The Daily Show beat out both CNN, which accumulated an average of 1.3 million viewers, and MSNBC, which had only an average of 791,000 viewers per episode.

Junior Silong Yang deliberately chooses to watch the news instead of satirical television because he believes that “[Deciding to watch concrete news] can seriously change [students'] futures and educate them efficiently. Ultimately Yang is in the minority of students as most students continue to get their news from satirical shows.

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