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A History of News Parody, (“Fake News”)
Television and the internet – focusing on the phenomenon of ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’.

 

In order to put the impact of the current phenomenon of satirical or parody news into perspective we need to look at the general history of political satire, particularly during the last 30-40 years as it leads to the explosion of interest and influence that news satire has achieved in the last 5 years.

In large part due to the growth throughout the late 20th century of vast venues of mass media, satire, and political satire in particular, has become increasingly popular. So much so that, according to CNN.com, Tuesday, March 2, 2004, (http://www.cnn.com/2004/SHOWBIZ/TV/03/02/apontv.stewarts.stature.ap/):

”A poll released earlier this year by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 21 percent of people aged 18 to 29 cited "The Daily Show" and "Saturday Night Live" as a place where they regularly learned presidential campaign news.

By contrast, 23 percent of the young people mentioned ABC, CBS or NBC's nightly news broadcasts as a source.

Even more startling is the change from just four years ago. When the same question was asked in 2000, Pew found only 9 percent of young people pointing to the comedy shows and 39 percent to the network news shows. “

 

The foundation for political satire, of course, extends well into the past, from court jesters, to Shakespeare, to Jonathon Swift, to Mark Twain and Will Rogers. But news parody, ‘fake news’, is uniquely a product of post World War II America. With the spread of television into an increasingly widespread suburban population, the strong visual impact of “the Evening News” cemented its’ place as an authoritative source of information about a rapidly changing and, for many, increasingly dangerous world.

That authority began to be more generally undermined in the late 1960s and 1970s as the baby boomer generation questioned (among nearly everything else), the validity of network television and other media outlets to accurately inform and honestly report on issues from civil rights to Vietnam to Watergate.

Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, in 1968, was perhaps one of the first to respond to the established mainstream and speak more directly to an increasingly skeptical youth audience. Its weekly “Laugh-In Looks at the News”, a parody of a network newscast that commented on current events, as well as "News of the Past" which lampooned historical events, and a segment on "News of the Future," predicting unlikely or bizarre future news stories to comic effect. (Host Dan Rowan actually nailed some, mentioning "President Ronald Reagan" in a story from "1988, 20 years from now," eliciting laughter from the audience. Another prediction—that the Berlin Wall would be destroyed in 1989—likewise came true, although the follow up gag that it would be "quickly replaced by a moat full of alligators" did not.)

 

In 1975 a writer from that show, Canadian Lorne Michaels, became the producer for the new “NBC’s Saturday Night”, (later to be renamed “Saturday Night Live”). That show featured a regular sketch, Weekend Update, which featured comedian Chevy Chase satirically commenting on and inventing news of current events. That segment has continued throughout the show’s history, with several different hosts.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Saturday_Night_Live_%281975-1980%29

 

In what may be considered by some to be history repeating itself, as the culture responded to the Nixon/Ford presidency, Vietnam and Watergate with Laugh-In and Weekend Update, so it would appear that culture is now responding to the Bush years and Iraq with The Daily Show.

Since the 1990s, and especially since 2000, with more and more news outlets being bought up and controlled by fewer and fewer conglomerates, and with the rapid growth of 24-hour cable news channels, the demand on those outlets, (and on the individual journalists and editors) to competitively attract viewers has forced them to emphasize a more entertainment oriented approach to news. The theater of mass media television news has become more than ever one of “if it bleeds, it leads”. Seemingly all news is “BREAKING NEWS!!!!”, and reporters must maintain their access to sources at any cost, even if those sources are lying to them. The truth takes a back seat to ratings.

 

One could say a similar devolution has been happening in politics. Winning seems to be the thing that counts, winning at all costs, no matter the implications of policy or hypocrisy of values. Ironically, in this age of information, while we are more able to access information, we find ourselves deluged by false and ‘spun’ information, with the mainstream news media apparently reading from the script supplied by corporate and political sponsors, (quite literally, in many cases, where VNR – video news releases – are used as part of a local or national newscast).

 

Audiences of this time are perhaps aware of the cynical way in which they are being manipulated, but apathetic or simply without an outlet to express their frustration at the absurdity bombarding them daily.

 

Onto this stage arrives The Daily Show, and in 1999, Jon Stewart, who, like news anchor Howard Beale in Network, is able to connect to what the culture is feeling when he says: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore!” (Howard Beale said that, not Jon Stewart, but you see the connection.)

 

 

 

 

 

From the October 31, 2006 Rolling Stone interview by Maureen Dowd:

(http://www.rollingstone.com/news/coverstory/jon_stewart_stephen_colbert_americas_anchors/page/2)

A fake news show, "The Daily Show," spawned a fake commentator, Colbert, who makes his own fake reality defending the fake reality of a real president, and has government officials on who know the joke but are still willing to be mocked by someone fake. Your shows are like mirrors within mirrors, using a cycle of fakery to get to the truth. You've tapped into a sense in society that nothing, from reality shows to Bushworld, is real anymore. Do you guys ever get confused by your hall of mirrors?

STEWART: I didn't know we were going to have to be high to do this interview.

COLBERT: I think we see it less as a hall of mirrors and more as one of those slenderizing mirrors you can buy that you see in catalogs that make you feel good about yourself before you go out the door.

 

A brief history of The Daily Show:

 

1996 – Comedy Central searches for a program to replace Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher. Comedians and producers Liz Winstead and Madeline Smithberg create The Daily Show hosted by Craig Kilborn.

 

The show has an informal atmosphere with no studio audience, and establishes the comedic parody newscast and mockumentary “on-location” spots as its’ foundational premise.

While the shows’ form borrows heavily from Saturday Night Lives’ Weekend Update’, it’s presentation is more casual talk-show than full-on, formal news show.

 

1998 – Due to behind the scenes tensions between Kilborn and female cast members, Liz Winstead resigns. Kilborn leaves at the end of the year to replace Tom Snyder at CBS.

 

1999 – Jon Stewart takes over as host, also assuming responsibilities as a writer and executive producer.

 

While retaining many of the features and segments of the previous years format, there are a number of significant changes made to the show.

The show takes on a more self-important, flashier, and formal look tied to a stronger parody of national network and cable news shows – particularly the Fox News Network – opening each episode with:

“The Most Important News Show... Ever.”

And:

“The Most Important Television Program... Ever. “

2000 -- The Daily Show begins the airing of special episodes with the moniker “Indecision 2000” covering the presidential campaign.

The series wins a Peabody award that year and spawns a recurring theme for election coverage.

2001 and 2002: Stewart hosts the Grammys.

 

Sept 2003: Sen. John Edwards announces his presidential run on The Daily Show, making him the first presidential candidate to launch a campaign on a TV comedy show. Stewart informs Edwards that The Daily Show is fake.

 

 

August 2004: Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry appears on The Daily Show for an interview.

2004

September – America: The Book A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction published. – a national bestseller, mostly for the nude pictures of the Supreme Court Justices.

(October 14) – Jon Stewart appears on CNN’s Crossfire, and, refusing to “be funny,” as he is implored, instead challenges the partisan panelists to “Please…stop hurting America” by “serving as political hacks”.

This clip of Stewarts’ confrontation on Crossfire became one of the most downloaded and streamed clips on the internet that year and the transcript from the show was one of the most cited references in on-line blogs of the following year. The appearance seemed to strike a chord with a dissatisfied and frustrated public that had seen journalism descend into well-scripted theater in the years since 1999.

The Daily Show wins another Peabody award for its’ Indecision ’04 segments.

 

2006

“Stewart/Colbert ‘08” campaign shirts and bumper stickers begin to appear.

"Nothing says 'I'm ashamed of you, my government' more than 'Stewart/Colbert '08,' '' Stewart told New Yorker editor David Remnick at the magazine's fall cultural festival.

Throughout the Jon Stewart years some notable guests have included:

• U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter & Bill Clinton.

• U.S. Vice President Al Gore.

• U.S. Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright & Colin Powell.

• U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

• U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen.

• U.S. Senators Hillary Clinton, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole, John Edwards (who in 2003 announced his candidacy for the presidency on the show), Russ Feingold, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, Trent Lott, John McCain, Zell Miller, Barack Obama & Rick Santorum.

• DNC Chairman Howard Dean and RNC Chairmen Ed Gillespie & Ken Mehlman.

• CIA Directors George Tenet & James Woolsey.

• Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

 

 

 

 

 

Why is Fake News So Funny

 

Why is fake news so funny? With its fairly recent rise in popularity, this is a question that needs to be asked. There isn’t one specific answer. There are in fact many. A lot of the fake news presented today, especially on The Colbert Report and The Daily Show, deals with the current political situation. For everyone involved, the current political situation in the United States is very tense. Whether you are pro-war, anti-war, somewhere in the middle, or you just do not care about any of it, chances are you’ve been affected by the current state of the United States Government and its politics. Since this war and its politics are very serious topics, arguably about as serious as topics can get since the lives of human beings are involved, shows like The Colbert Report and The Daily Show help its viewers to cope with what is happening. Laughing is a proven coping mechanism. Some very serious things are happening in the world today, and one way of living with all of that is to turn it into a joke. That is exactly what a lot of political satire is doing these days. It is seemingly understood by everyone that what is happening is extremely serious, but sometimes we need to take a step back and laugh at it all.

Another reason fake news is funny has to do with the way it brings people together. Right now the majority of funny fake news like The Colbert Report is liberal leaning. The things that show pokes fun at are largely things the Republican Party is doing. While these things may not be funny to Republicans, they are usually found largely amusing to Democrats and by others who enjoy seeing Republicans made fun of. This collective effect makes things funnier. Take for example the instance when you watch a comedy alone. If you find it funny you will laugh. But, if you were to watch the same comedy in a crowded theater or with friends, and everyone else found it funny as well, you would laugh out loud a lot more than if you were alone. The same goes for the The Daily Show. When you’ve got a nation of people who feel the same way about something, and it is presented in such a way that you think is brilliant and funny, it makes it all the more funny when you can talk about it the next day at work or school with others who feel the same. It is a collective mentality. So many people feel this way in America, and when they see something on television that speaks to them, or seems to explain the way they are feeling in a humorous way, and many other people feel the same way, it makes it all the more powerful and hilarious.

A third reason fake news is funny is because it defies convention. News is traditionally over-serious and objective. Or at least it is supposed to be. When fake news programs and newspapers like The Onion come in to play, it throws all that out the window. They are the exact opposite of what news is supposed to be. The same reason fake news is funny is the same reason shows like Jackass are funny. They both do the opposite of what is expected. They invert the norm. We expect news to be serious and objective, but when it is the exact opposite of our expectations we laugh.

Another reason shows like the The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are funny has to do with defying our expectations again. Both Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert interview public figures who are usually seen in serious situations. Jon Stewart asks them serious questions but keeps it highly comical, while Colbert asks absurd questions, and is funny all the time. Again, we are used to seeing these public figures as being overly serious, and don’t expect them to be in situations like this. But as these two television shows have proven, people like it when these public figures can relax and laugh, sometimes at their own expense.

 

The recent popularity of Fake News is also a reason it is so funny. One reason it is so popular is because traditional media has reached a form of absurdity. The masses have realized this, and have grown despondent. In other words, traditional media has become stale, and The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are challenging them. They are not challenging stale media in a polite way either, they are challenging it with a giant middle finger. And that is why it is so funny. Liberal, educated media analysts can write all of the essays they want about how gross the media has become, but it is largely going to fall on deaf ears. There is no shock value, and it is often seen as boring. Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert throw these traditional attacks out the window. Though one could argue they lose some of their credibility by being on commercial ridden cable television, it is justified by the fact that sometimes one has to fight fire with fire. Basically America was partially shocked back to life due in part to these two television shows. Cable television is pretty limited in its content, and in user manipulation. Not everyone has Tivo, and even if they do people don’t have much of a choice in programming when it comes to news. So for Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert to seemingly come out nowhere in the minds of the “average” American, it is slightly shocking. It is arguable that one reason people think fake news is so funny is that they do not know how else to deal with it. Here are two television shows outright criticizing the current state of the Nation, in broad daylight, and no one is stopping them. Sure they are funny, but people find them even funnier because they are getting away with it.

 

 

 

 

 

Fake News; The question of popularity and validity…

 

While it is true that fake news within the sphere of popular media has existed for decades, it has seen a considerable rise in popularity in the last several years. In the seven years since Stewart took over, the audience for The Daily Show has tripled to 1.4 million viewers a night (http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.09/stewart.html). The success of The Daily Show led to the conception and production of The Colbert Report as well – a spin-off political pundit program that mocks other personality driven shows such as The O’Reilly factor. Today, these two programs are aired back to back on Comedy Central to one of the largest audiences that exists on cable television (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon_stewart).

 

In addition to the tremendous response of popular culture to these two shows, The Onion, self proclaimed as “America’s Finest News Source” has also enjoyed a dramatic increase in audience. Though The Onion was initially created in 1988, its exposure was very limited until the creation of its website, www.theonion.com, in 1996. Since that year, The Onion’s popularity has steadily grown. Today the newspaper is available in print in large cities across the United States as well as through subscription, and its books are available worldwide. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Onion).

 

Even within the last few years, the popularity and influence of these fake news sources has grown at an incredulous rate. Stephen Colbert’s invitation to be a featured entertainer at the 2006 White House Correspondent’s Association Dinner is evidence of this. Though Colbert’s performance at this particular event was received in a lukewarm fashion by its present audience, the controversial routine became a media and internet phenomenon. In addition, the ratings for The Colbert Report enjoyed a 37% bump in the following week (http://publications.mediapost.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=Articles.showEdition&art_send_date=2006-5-11&art_type=41). Jon Stewart has cemented himself as a focal character in America’s pop culture not only through work on his Comedy Central, but also in hosting the Grammy Award show twice, as well as the 78th Academy Awards show on March 5th, 2006.

 

Given the prevalence of these fake news sources and personalities today, as well as their relatively recent and sudden escalation in fame and regard, it begs the question to be asked: why is fake news so popular?

 

It could certainly be argued that the rise in viewer-ship of cable television and the increasing prevalence of the internet on our society has had a substantial effect on the spread of this particular form of media. Still, when one considers that the University of Indiana found “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to be as substantive as network news,” (http://newsinfo.iu.edu/news/page/normal/4159.html) the power of fake news can not be denied. At the same time, this speaks volumes about the quality of network news; when a comedian on a decidedly satirical program is “as substantive.” This is perhaps a more grounded reason for the rise in fake news.

 

Not since the early 1960’s has the American public faithfully trusted what its government says, (http://www.comm.umn.edu/~kwilson/1960s.html) and it seems evident that the press and media are quickly becoming equally difficult to trust and place faith in. Even casual viewers and listeners of news can identify the disaccord of the way the same news stories are delivered from network to network. Consider for instance, the difference in the coverage of the Iraq war between CNN and Fox News. Though one or both of these networks might be delivering their versions of the truth without intentional bias, it is difficult sometimes to know for sure which of the two perspectives is closer to the whole truth. It is perhaps even more likely that some networks modify their presentation of the news to accommodate the interests of their selected audiences. In other words, this author would posit that to some extent, the truth of news delivery is altered in slight ways to appeal to a given audience. While it may be difficult for some to believe, there are many Americans who discount nearly all media outlets aside from Fox News as having a liberal bias that distorts their delivery of the truth. Adversely, Fox News is dismissed by a large demographic as well, for what is conceived as an unabashed conservative tinge. Why then, would one invest time in news programs if they are convinced that the “news” they are watching is biased and incredible?

 

In addition to widespread perceived political bias in mainstream news and media, the general American public is also becoming increasingly aware of other ways that purportedly truthful news sources are intentionally deceiving their audiences – through the inclusion of VNRs, or Video News Releases.

 

In many ways similar to product placement advertisements in movies and primetime dramas, VNRs are essentially pre-packaged news stories that are written and designed by public relations firms on behalf of paying clients (http://www.prwatch.org/fakenews/execsummary). Though it is only recently that the inclusion of VNRs has been formally exposed on many news broadcasts, this study by prwatch.org suggests that this form of deceptive fake news is widespread and commonplace in many markets.

 

The end sum of VNRs and political biases is an alienated audience. Even if one is to look past the differences in the varied portrayal of news as according to perceived political agenda, the inclusion of commercial advertisements disguised as real news is an outrageous and estranging idea to many. Being tricked into accepting an advertisement is insulting enough, but there is added injury when the message is given as news from a media supposedly dedicated to delivering “the truth.” It is necessary at this juncture to clarify that the authors of this wiki chapter do not consider all media and news outlets to fit this mold – rather, that experiences with those described can disillusion many to the point of outright cynicism.

 

For many individuals who have given up the pursuit of truth, or whose skepticism directs them away from traditional news outlets, “truthiness” has become the answer. This term, coined by Stephen Colbert, was named word of the year for 2005 by the American Dialect Society and for 2006 by Merriam-Webster. Essentially, truthiness refers to the “truth” found from the gut, and disregards any fact or research. The Colbert Report suggests often that the current White House administration relies more on truthiness than upon truth, and asks the question, “why should we not do the same?”

 

The disparaging nature of news outlets growing increasingly unreliable – even if this nature is based more in perception than in reality – has undoubtedly played an integral role in the popularity enjoyed by outwardly fake news programs of late. Another undeniable attraction is the entertainment value of these sources. Fake news such as The Onion and Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update have lived on their entertainment value almost entirely, while contributing nearly no news of traditional value. On the other hand, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report (according to the study from Indiana University) contain as much and sometimes more substantive news as their traditional counterparts. The irony here, of course, is that these two programs make no claim to be news programs, insisting instead that they exist merely within the realm of comedy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daily_show).

 

It is impossible to ignore the impact that fake news has had on popular culture of late. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are seemingly everywhere one looks, including the cover of a recent Rolling Stone issue. The Onion has become a staple at newsstands and college campuses, as well as online. To fully appreciate the dramatic boom in popularity that these forms of media have received over a relatively short period, one must consider the context in which their popularity has developed. America is now a society that distrusts not only its government, but for a large measure (and for various reasons), its news and media. Marketing and advertisement have infiltrated what were once trusted and respected forms of media. It is also a time when American society seems to be craving entertainment media as a form of escapism from the harshness of reality. Surely there are many reasons that individuals choose to tune into these forms of fake news, but what seems to be an underlying theme for many is a unilateral distrust of traditional news and news sources.

 

 

Sources:

 

http://gradworks.umi.com/31/92/3192470.html

 

http://www.cnn.com/2004/SHOWBIZ/TV/09/28/comedy.politics/

 

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Fake_news

 

http://www.rollingstone.com/news/coverstory/jon_stewart_stephen_colbert_americas_anchors

 

http://scan.net.au/scan/journal/print.php?journal_id=73&j_id=7

 

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20061004-7908.html

 

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.09/stewart.html

 

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11182033/site/newsweek/

 

http://www.ssn.flinders.edu.au/global/glob1002/2005book/essay7.htm

 

http://www.mediacenter.org/pages/mc/research/synapse_the_future_of_news/

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Daily_Show

 

http://www.prwatch.org/fakenews/execsummary

 

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11178541/site/newsweek/from/RL.2/

 

http://www.cnn.com/2004/SHOWBIZ/TV/03/02/apontv.stewarts.stature.ap/

 

http://manhattan.about.com/od/famousnewyorkers/p/jonstewart.htm/

 

http://www.ifilm.com/ifilmdetail/2652831

 

http://www.pbs.org/now/transcript/transcript_stewart.html

 

http://talkshows.about.com/od/jonstewart/The_Daily_Show_with_Jon_Stewart.htm

 

The Daily Show: Discursive Integration and the Reinvention of Political Journalism

GEOFFREY BAYM

Political Communication, 22:259–276

Copyright 2005 Taylor & Francis Inc.

ISSN: 1058-4609 print / 1091-7675 online

DOI: 10.1080/10584600591006492

http://taylorandfrancis.metapress.com/(x551btbssz2r01qw3ocdgz55)/app/home/contribution.asp?referrer=parent&backto=issue,1,20;journal,6,40;linkingpublicationresults,1:100681,1

 

 

 

And a comedian shall show journalists the way

Herbert Jack Rotfeld

Auburn University, Alabama, USA

 

The Emerald Research Register for this journal is available at

www.emeraldinsight.com/researchregister

The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at

www.emeraldinsight.com/0736-3761.htm

Journal of Consumer Marketing

22/3 (2005) 119–120

q Emerald Group Publishing Limited ISSN 0736-3761

[DOI 10.1108/07363760510600312]

http://www.emeraldinsight.com/Insight/viewContentItem.do?contentType=Article&hdAction=lnkhtml&contentId=1500323

 

 

The Daily Show Effect: Humor, News, Knowledge and Viewers

A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of Georgetown University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Communication, Culture, and Technology

By Rachel Joy Larris, B.A.

Washington, D.C.

May 2, 2005

http://dspace.wrlc.org/handle/1961/605

 

 

An Interview with the Writers of America: The Book.

By Michael Piafsky

The Missouri Review/ Spring/Summer 2005

http://muse.jhu.edu/cgi-bin/access.cgi?uri=/journals/missouri_review/v028/28.1piafsky.html

 

 

 

 

http://apr.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/34/3/341

 

http://www.tompaine.com/print/the_daily_show_cause_and_effect.php

 

http://www.annenbergpublicpolicycenter.org/naes/2004_03_late-night-knowledge-2_9-21_pr.pdf

 

 

http://tigger.uic.edu/depts/pols/PolComConf/mutzpreconf.pdf

 

http://www.annenbergpublicpolicycenter.org/Releases/Release_COMM20060519.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stop Fake News From Moving Targets

You might be wondering about the title of this post, given my proclivity to reference the Daily Show and the Colbert Report so often. But fake news that claims to be fake news, even if it ends up being some of the most influential news around, isnt the problem. The problem is the continued use of Video News Reports (VNRs) by real news stations who are passing them off as real news. VNRs are public relations promo pieces that are produced by corporations and PR firms for the expressed purpose of delivery a biased message. They are not news. And since they are also not funny, they have no place on either real news or fake news programs.

 

 

 

To the news group, I found the following site as I was looking for lessons about documentary. The focus is on how news media shape our perceptions. I hope its helpful.

http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/lessons/media/

from Nate Schultz

 

How about a lesson about Edward Morrow tied to a PBS documentary about him?

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/education/lesson39_overview.html

from Nate Schultz

 

Or another lesson from PBS tied to a documentary about Walter Kronkite?

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/education/lesson38_overview.html

from Nate Schultz

 

American Society of Newspaper Editors: online journalism

http://www.highschooljournalism.org/

 

Midwest local TV newscasts average 36 seconds of election coverage

October 12, 2006

 

by Dennis Chaptman

http://www.news.wisc.edu/13015.html

 

In the month following the traditional Labor Day kickoff of the 2006 election campaign season, television stations in nine Midwest markets devoted an average of 36 seconds to election coverage during the typical 30-minute local news broadcast, a new analysis conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows.

 

By contrast, the typical early and late-evening local news broadcasts contained more than 10 minutes of advertising, more than seven minutes of sports and weather, and almost two minutes, 30 seconds of crime stories.

 

The analysis traces broadcast news coverage in media markets in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio, all of them witnessing highly competitive campaigns for state office this year. Public-opinion research consistently shows that voters rely on local television newscasts as their primary source of information about elections and politics.

 

The findings were reported today (Oct. 12) by the Midwest News Index <http://www.mni.wisc.edu/> (MNI), a new project of UW-Madison's NewsLab. The Joyce Foundation of Chicago is funding the analysis as part of an ongoing project examining democratic institutions and processes in the five-state region.

 

The UW-Madison NewsLab analysis captured up to one hour per night of the early and late-evening broadcasts on 36 NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX affiliates in nine Midwest markets between Sept. 7 and Oct. 6. The analysis covered the largest media market and state capital city in each state: Chicago, Springfield, Detroit, Lansing, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Cleveland, Columbus, Madison and Milwaukee.

 

Highlights of the initial report include:

Of the more than 1,800 broadcasts analyzed by the UW-Madison NewsLab (900 hours of programming), 1,629 election related stories aired. These included stories that were primarily about campaigns and elections and stories that either tangentially included elections or that mentioned a candidate running for office in November.

Just more than half of all broadcasts (56 percent) contained at least one story that was primarily about elections, and the average length of stories devoted primarily to elections was 68 seconds.

In coverage of elections, strategy and horserace stories vastly outweighed substantive issue coverage by a margin of almost 3 to 1 (63 percent to 23 percent).

Gubernatorial coverage consumed a third of the airtime (34 percent) devoted to election stories.

This initial report on pre-election coverage is the first in a series of analyses running through the summer of 2007 of how local news broadcasts cover politics and government. The duration of the study and its regional focus are unprecedented.

 

The UW-Madison NewsLab is directed by UW-Madison political science professor Ken Goldstein. The state-of-the-art facility has the infrastructure, technical skill and supervisory capability to capture, clip, code, analyze and archive any media in any market — domestic or international — in real time.

 

The NewsLab archives include data collected in the 2002 and 2004 national elections, and are the most comprehensive and systematic collection of campaign news coverage on local television stations ever gathered.

 

"Although it is the single greatest source of news information for most Americans, scholarly studies have consistently shown that citizens learn little from local news," Goldstein says. "The results from this study show why. There must be significant substantive content for learning to take place. This study, consistent with previous studies conducted at UW NewsLab, show that there is relatively little coverage of campaigns and elections on local news, and when coverage does occur, it tends to focus on horserace and strategy frames."

 

The Midwest News Index findings <http://www.mni.wisc.edu/> will be continually updated. The study will also produce a comprehensive, Web-based searchable archive available to journalists, scholars, civic organizations and others. A second report covering the final month of the campaign will be released in mid-November.

 

Lawrence Hansen, vice president of the Joyce Foundation, says he hoped the initial findings of the Midwest News Index would spur both station owners and their regulators to do a better job of fulfilling their public-interest obligations in the final weeks before the elections.

 

"The airwaves — like our national parks — are owned by the American people, not, as is often mistakenly assumed, by broadcasters. The results of this study show that most broadcasters are retreating from their obligation to serve the public interest, including their responsibility to inform citizens so they can participate in the political process," says Hansen.

 

"Meanwhile television station owners reap millions of dollars from paid political advertising — which in turn drives up the cost of running for office and makes candidates dependent on special interests and large donors willing to pick up the tab," Hansen says.

 

Following is a table illustrating a breakdown of the typical 30-minute local news broadcast in the nine markets covered by NewsLab's Midwest News Index. Times reflect averages based on total broadcasts analyzed.

 

Typical 30-minute broadcast breakdown (Sept. 7-Oct. 6):

Advertising: 10 minutes, 7 seconds

Sports and weather: 7 minutes, 1 second

Crime: 2 minutes, 27 seconds

Other: 2 minutes, 18 seconds

Local interest: 2 minutes, 1 second

Teasers, bumpers, intros: 1 minute, 46 seconds

Non-campaign government news: 1 minute, 6 seconds

Health: 1 minute, 4 seconds

Business, economy: 1 minute, 2 seconds

Election coverage: 36 seconds

Foreign policy: 23 seconds

Unintentional injury: 11 seconds

 

 

 

 

October 3, 2006 http://www.rtnda.org/news/2006/100306.shtml

 

RTNDF Study Finds Local Television Remains the Dominant Source of News;

Public Wants Serious News, Technology That Gives Them Control

WASHINGTON—More Americans choose local television news as one of their top three sources for news than any other form of traditional or new media, according to The Future of News Survey conducted for the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation. A total of 65.5 percent named local television news, compared with 28.4 percent who named local newspapers and 28.3 percent who named national network television news. The Internet was one of the top three choices for 11.2 percent of those surveyed.

 

Additional findings:

The public is showing a strong interest in serious news. National and international news rank second and third, just behind weather, in interest. Information about sports and entertainment ranked at the bottom.

More than 90 percent said it is very important or somewhat important for news to be right up to the minute. The public was most interested in urgent, breaking news but some complained about mislabeling of news that is neither urgent nor breaking.

People want to be able to watch news when it is convenient for them. Decisions to watch news appear to be based on having the time available, rather than to watch something specific that they have heard about.

Two-thirds of the public say they have never read a blog or don’t know what they are.

Less than 5 percent of the public has ever watched news on a small screen device such as a mobile phone or handheld electronic device.

More than three-quarters of the public prefer to watch news on a television set, rather than a computer or handheld electronic device, and more than 60 percent would like to perform on TV the functions they now perform on a computer. If given a choice of getting the same news whenever they want via any medium, the public also prefers to get news on television.

The public desires more interactivity with television news. More than 40 percent of the public would like the ability to assemble their own newscasts. More than 60 percent would like to be able to push a button and get more information on screen about what they are watching.

The public perceives that business and advertisers have influence on television news. Those in higher income groups, the better educated, younger people and men feel most strongly about the importance of maintaining a clear separation between advertisers and news.

“The future of news is a matter of vital concern to RTNDA and its members,” says RTNDA and RTNDF president Barbara Cochran. “Through research such as the RTNDF study, electronic journalists can determine how technological change can influence the future of news. Armed with knowledge, electronic journalists can face the future without fear and enjoy the exciting times ahead.”

 

The study was commissioned by RTNDF, conducted by Bob Papper, professor at Ball State University, and sponsored by the Ford Foundation. For complete survey results, please visit www.rtnda.org <http://www.rtnda.org/> or for further information on study, contact Stacey Staniak at 202.467.5214 or staceys@rtndf.org.

 

 

 

 

Wikibook: Writing and Rhetoric in the Public Sphere

http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Rhetoric_and_Writing_in_the_Public_Sphere:_An_Introduction

 

 

 

Star Tribune September 18, 2006 – 8:22 PM

The disappearing male TV anchor

Men may still have a grip on the news anchor chairs nationally, but locally women are in the driver's seat.

 

Aimee Blanchette, Star Tribune

Mike Binkley planned to spend September reading, working out, and sleeping late for a change. Instead, the morning news anchor on KSTP-TV, Channel 5, abandoned his retirement plans when executives had trouble finding a replacement.

 

In TV news these days, a good man is hard to find.

 

At the networks, men still rule -- Katie Couric notwithstanding -- but at the local level, women have taken the lead. Nationally, they account for 57 percent of TV news anchors.

 

That has created a hot job market for the men who remain. When TV journalist Lou Raguse graduated from the University of Minnesota last year, he got eight or nine job offers right away.

 

"If you want to go into the business and are a man, it's a good time to do it," said Raguse, who wound up taking a job at KELO, a CBS affiliate in Sioux Falls, S.D., where he is one of two men among 12 women at daily news meetings.

 

The male disappearing act starts in the classroom. At the University of Minnesota this fall, women outnumber men 227 to 125 in the professional journalism major, which includes broadcasting. Ken Stone, a broadcast journalism professor who spent 20 years working in radio and TV news, has 10 women and six men in his advanced reporting class; he said that's as balanced as it gets.

 

Stone traces the trend to the 1970s, when women and minorities protested about domination of the airwaves by white men. One of his first journalism professors asked the men in his class to stand up, then told them, "Get a new career, there are too many of you."

 

At KSTP, anchor Joe Schmit recently left after 21 years to be the president of Petters Media and Marketing Group, leaving John Mason to pick up two extra broadcasts on top of his 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts.

 

Binkley has been reenlisted for at least three months, and maybe longer.

 

"It's become a bigger and bigger problem," said Bob Papper, a professor of telecommunications at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. "There are some stations, I'm told, that have no male reporters. They can't find them, and if they can, that person is likely to be an anchor," said Papper, who directed a nationwide survey on TV news trends for the Radio and Television News Directors Association (RTNDA).

 

The male anchor shortage isn't causing Twin Cities TV news executives much concern -- yet.

 

"Generally speaking, it's easier to find female on-air candidates today, but I wouldn't say that it's enough difference to be meaningful," said Rob Hubbard, general manager at KSTP. "But whatever the trend is, it will arrive to the Twin Cities market a little bit later, because generally we're a third, fourth or fifth stop in somebody's career."

 

At KMSP-TV, Channel 9, news director Bill Dahlman said he looks in nontraditional places for male anchors, such as moving sports reporters into news anchor positions. That's how KSTP's Schmit and KMSP anchor Jeff Passolt came into their jobs.

 

Low wages might be a factor

 

The number of male news anchors started to decline 10 years ago and is now at an all-time low. Men account for fewer than 43 percent of anchor jobs, compared with 46 percent in 1996, according to the RTNDA survey. Women also outnumber men as executive producers, reporters, news producers and writers, the survey found.

 

Low entry-level wages might help explain why men are evaporating from TV news. The average starting salary for cub reporters is about $20,000, a figure that has changed little in 20 years, according to the RTNDA. An anchor's median annual salary was $31,320 in 2004; 10 percent earned less than $18,470, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 

"Early in careers, the pay is awful," said Stone, adding that societal pressure for men to be breadwinners is so strong that "after two, three or four years, they get out."

 

Ball State's Papper rejects that argument, saying, "No one can prove to me that women are willing to accept less money than men." He believes women can advance more quickly in their careers.

 

"A young woman straight out of college with the right makeup, hair and dress looks like an adult," Papper said. "The standard guy at 22 looks like a kid."

 

The TV news talent pool is so inundated with women that they find intense competition for jobs. "If she's really good, chances are there are 20 or 30 other really good females to compete with," Stone said. "It's way easier for a female to get a producing job than it is for them to get an anchor job."

 

Whether that competition translates into lower pay for women is hard to gauge, Papper said, but his most recent survey found that female and male news directors -- the top news position at a TV station -- are paid equally.

 

"This is a supply-and-demand business, however, and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if a popular male anchor commanded more money," Papper said.

 

Despite their growing numbers in the newsroom, women have yet to reach parity as top-level executives. Although 55 percent of executive producers are women, only 21 percent of news directors are.

 

That might be a reflection of the years of experience it takes to earn such a job, Hubbard said. If there's a wave of women in producing jobs, "you're not going to see it hit that news-director position for at least 15 years," he said.

 

Glamour-damaged image?

 

Some present and former broadcasting students are getting turned off because they don't think the profession has the gravitas it did in the days of Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow.

 

"Twenty-five years ago, whoever was the best at delivering the news got the job, and I think today it's more glamorized," said University of Minnesota senior Adam Somers, who is focusing on a career in radio. "They're pretty much making stars out of their anchors, and that doesn't interest me."

 

Consider the piercingly blue-eyed CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. His face regularly appears on magazine covers, he made People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive list in 2005 and even has an online fan club.

 

Dan Wackman, director of undergraduate studies at the U of M, believes that television journalism is losing out on some of the brightest people: "They're going into business and engineering, because they can make a lot more money."

 

For Chad Hamblin, who once majored in broadcast journalism, it's not just about the money. Hamblin has decided to forgo the anchor chair to follow his dream in theater. During an internship at a local station, he said he was turned off by "all these anchors walking around caked up with makeup. I thought I might as well go into some actual entertainment as opposed to entertainment masquerading as news."

 

Aimee Blanchette • 612-673-1712 • ablanchette@startribune.com

 

©2006 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

 

 

The New York Times Book Review, September 17, 2006

Theater of War

By IAN BURUMA

 

As a former theater critic, Frank Rich has the perfect credentials for writing an account of the Bush administration, which has done so much to blur the lines between politics and show business. Not that this is a unique phenomenon; think of Silvio Berlusconi, the media mogul and master of political fictions, or Ronald Reagan, who often appeared to be genuinely confused about the difference between real life and the movies. Show business has always been an essential part of ruling people, and so is the use of fiction, especially when going to war. What would Hitler have been without his vicious fantasies fed to a hungry public through grand spectacles, radio and film? Closer to home, in 1964, to justify American intervention in Vietnam, Lyndon B. Johnson used news of an attack in the Gulf of Tonkin that never took place. What is fascinating about the era of George W. Bush, however, is that the spinmeisters, fake news reporters, photo-op creators, disinformation experts, intelligence manipulators, fictional heroes and public relations men posing as commentators operate in a world where virtual reality has already threatened to eclipse empirical investigation.

 

Remember that White House aide, quoted by Rich in his introduction, who said that a “judicious study of discernible reality” is “not the way the world really works anymore”? For him, the “reality-based community” of newspapers and broadcasters is old hat, out of touch, even contemptible in “an empire” where “we create our own reality.” This kind of official arrogance is not new, of course, although it is perhaps more common in dictatorships than in democracies. What is disturbing is the way it matches so much else going on in the world: postmodern debunking of objective truth, bloggers and talk radio blowhards driving the media, news organizations being taken over by entertainment corporations and the profusion of ever more sophisticated means to doctor reality.

 

Rich’s subject is the creation of false reality. “The Greatest Story Ever Sold” is not about policies, or geopolitical analysis. The pros and cons of removing Saddam Hussein by force, the consequences of American military intervention in the Middle East and the threat of Islamist extremism are given scant attention. The author, an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times, has his liberal views, which are not strikingly original. I happen to agree with him that Karl Rove and George Bush manipulated public fear and wartime patriotism to win elections, and that Dick Cheney and his neocon cheerleaders favored a war in Iraq long before 9/11 “to jump-start a realignment of the Middle East.” Whether Rich is right to say that this has “little or nothing to do with the stateless terrorism of Al Qaeda” is debatable. The neocons may well have believed that an American remake of the Middle East was the best way to tackle terrorism.

 

They were almost certainly mistaken. But the point of Rich’s fine polemic is that the Bush administration has consistently lied about the reasons for going to war, about the way it was conducted and about the terrible consequences. Whatever the merits of removing a dictator, waging war under false pretenses is highly damaging to a democracy, especially when one of the ostensible aims is to spread democracy to others. If Rich is correct, which I think he is, the Bush administration has given hypocrisy a bad name.

 

This is how the war was sold: We were told by Dick Cheney in late 2001 that an official Iraqi connection with the 9/11 terrorist Mohamed Atta was “pretty well confirmed.” In the summer of 2002, Cheney said that Saddam Hussein “continues to pursue a nuclear weapon” and that there was “no doubt” he had “weapons of mass destruction.” The vice president mentioned aluminum tubes (they had been reported on by Michael R. Gordon and Judith Miller in The New York Times), which Hussein would use “to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon.” This uranium, we were told, had been procured by the Iraqis from Niger. President Bush, in October 2002, said, “Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof — the smoking gun — that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”

 

We now know that none of these claims, which together constituted the official reason for unleashing a war, were even remotely true. The later excuses about honest beliefs based on faulty intelligence would have been more convincing if a memo had not surfaced from the British government, quoting the head of British intelligence as saying that the Bush administration had made sure that “the intelligence and facts” about the W.M.D.’s “were being fixed around the policy” of going to war. He said this in July 2002, eight months before the invasion of Iraq. Even without the memo, it has long been clear that some of the United States government’s own analysts had cast severe doubts on the reasons for going to war.

 

Yet — and this is where Rich is particularly acute — most serious papers published the White House claims on their front pages, and buried any doubts in small news items at the back. Political weeklies with a liberal pedigree, like The New Republic, fell in line with the neoconservative Weekly Standard, stating that the president would be guilty of “surrender in the war on international terrorism” should he fail to make an effort to topple Saddam Hussein. Bob Woodward, the scourge of the Nixon administration, wrote “Bush at War,” a book that seemed to take everything his White House sources told him at face value.

 

As soon as the fighting began, showbiz kicked in. Already in Afghanistan, the Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer had been given access to the troops to make a television series about American bravery, even as reporters from papers like The Washington Post were kept away from the scene. Then in Iraq, heroic stories, like the brave battle of Pfc. Jessica Lynch, were invented and packaged for the press, and those who pointed out the fakery were denounced as leftist malcontents. President Bush dressed up as Tom Cruise in “Top Gun” and landed on an aircraft carrier for a photo op declaring a great victory. And the press, by and large, took the bait.

 

How could this have happened? How could some of the best, most fact-checked, most reputable news organizations in the English-speaking world have been so gullible? How can one explain the temporary paralysis of skepticism? This is perhaps the most painful question raised by Rich’s book, since his own newspaper was clearly implicated. An air of intimidation, which hung over the United States like a noxious vapor after 9/11, is part of the explanation. Susan Sontag became a national hate figure just for saying that United States foreign policy might have had something to do with violent anti-Americanism. When John Ashcroft declared to the Senate that people who challenged his highly questionable policies “give ammunition to America’s enemies,” he was simply echoing the ranters and ravers of talk radio. But they are poisonous buffoons. He was the attorney general. No wonder that the mainstream press, after being continuously accused of “liberal bias,” preferred to keep its head down.

 

Newspaper editors should not have to feel the need to prove their patriotism, or their absence of bias. Their job is to publish what they believe to be true, based on evidence and good judgment. As Rich points out, such journals as The Nation and The New York Review of Books were quicker to see through government shenanigans than the mainstream press. And reporters from Knight Ridder got the story about intelligence fixing right, before The New York Times caught on. “At Knight Ridder,” Rich says, “there was a clearer institutional grasp of the big picture.”

 

Intimidation is only part of the story, however. The changing nature of gathering and publishing information has made mainstream journalists unusually defensive. That more people than ever are now able to express their views, on radio shows and Web sites, is perhaps a form of democracy, but it has undermined the authority of editors, whose expertise was meant to act as a filter against nonsense or prejudice. And the deliberate confusion, on television, of news and entertainment has done further damage.

 

The Republicans, being more populist than the Democrats, have exploited this new climate with far greater finesse. Accusing the media of bias is an act of remarkable chutzpah for an administration that pitches its messages straight at radio talk show hosts and public relations men. Rich gives many examples. One of the more arresting ones is of Dick Cheney appearing on a TV show with Armstrong Williams, a fake journalist on the government payroll, to complain about bias in the press. Something has gone askew when one of the most trusted critics of the Bush administration is Jon Stewart, host of a superb comedy program. It was on his “Daily Show” that Rob Corddry, an actor playing a reporter, lamented that he couldn’t keep up with the government, which had created “a whole new category of fake news — infoganda.” Rich is right: “The more real journalism fumbled its job, the easier it was for such government infoganda to fill the vacuum.”

 

THERE may be one other reason for the fumbling: the conventional methods of American journalism, marked by an obsession with access and quotes. A good reporter for an American paper must get sources who sound authoritative and quotes that show both sides of a story. His or her own expertise is almost irrelevant. If the opinions of columnists count for too much in the American press, the intelligence of reporters is institutionally underused. The problem is that there are not always two sides to a story. Someone reporting on the persecution of Jews in Germany in 1938 would not have added “balance” by quoting Joseph Goebbels. And besides, as Judith Miller found out, what is the good of quotes if they are based on false information?

 

Bob Woodward, one of Rich’s chief bêtes noires, has more access in Washington than any journalist, but the weakness of his work is that he never seems to be better than his sources. As Rich rightly observes, “reporters who did not have Woodward’s or Miller’s top-level access within the administration not only got the Iraq story right but got it into newspapers early by seeking out what John Walcott, the Knight Ridder Washington bureau chief, called ‘the blue collar’ sources further down the hierarchy.” This used to be Woodward’s modus operandi, too, in his better days. Fearing the loss of access at the top and overrating the importance of quotes from powerful people, as well as an unjustified terror of being accused of liberal bias, have crippled the press at a time when it is needed more than ever. Frank Rich is an excellent product of that press, and if it ever recovers its high reputation, it will be partly thanks to one man who couldn’t take it anymore.

 

Ian Buruma is the Henry Luce professor at Bard College. His latest book is “Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance.”

 

 

FAIR website: http://www.fair.org/index.php

 

'NewsHour' faulted for lack of diversity

DAVID BAUDER Associated Press

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/15670289.htm

NEW YORK - PBS' "NewsHour" tilts too heavily toward Republican white men in its sources and needs to do a better job promoting diverse points of view, a watchdog group said in a report issued on Tuesday.

 

Two-thirds of the partisan sources appearing on Jim Lehrer's nightly newscasts between October 2005 and March 2006 were Republican, and 82 percent were men, said the liberal advocacy organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.

 

The show works hard to reflect diversity, PBS spokesman Rob Flynn said. But with Republicans in power in both the White House and Congress, it's only natural that they will be seen more in a news program, he said.

 

For instance, FAIR's report lists former White House press secretary Scott McClellan as a source who appeared on the show 25 times. For most of those, it was probably just a film of McClellan commenting on a news story from his White House podium, Flynn said.

 

"You may have an argument for 7 or 8 percent more Republicans, but you don't have an argument for two-to-one," said FAIR's Steve Rendall, senior analyst and co-author of the report.

 

FAIR's researchers found minorities used as sources 15 percent of the time, even though they make up 31 percent of the population. Hurricane Katrina sources, mostly victims of the flood, make up about half of those sources, he said.

 

In stories about the Iraq war, people who advocate a U.S. withdrawal were outnumbered by more than five-to-one, the liberal group said. Its researchers said they couldn't find a single peace activist had appeared on "NewsHour" during the six months studied.

 

"I think people in commercial broadcasting, and particularly in public broadcasting, are constantly looking over their shoulders skittishly, worried that they will be labeled liberal or left-wing," Rendall said.

 

Responded Flynn: "I don't think we go one way or another to compensate for the bias of conventional wisdom."

 

 

Study of "bias" in news

http://faculty.chicagogsb.edu/matthew.gentzkow/research/biasmeas101706.pdf

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