Satire’s Place in Journalism

Would it be fair to say that Stephen Colbert, or Brooke Alvarez of The Onion are journalists? They go through a lot of the same motions, gathering information, disseminating what is newsworthy from what is a pile of rubbish, and then they share it, albeit with a slight bias.

It’s more suitable to say Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert’s shows are more journalistic than the Onion News Network because they comment on reality more often, but it can also be said that a lot of the satire used in this trifecta of sarcasm is trying to show the truth more clearly. Jon Stewart is constantly making jokes, but he’s showing the real footage and pointing out what that particular footage is missing or blatantly disregarding. Colbert keeps a straight face and exaggerates to show his point, but again, he plays it alongside the actual footage and simply responds to it.

Of course anything that the comedians say shouldn’t be taken as fact, but their hyperboles are often there to point out a lesser truth. When Colbert reports on Arizona Senator Jon Kyl’s “whoopsie” concerning his statement that Planned Parenthood was 90% abortion services when in fact that only accounts for about 3% of what they do, he pokes fun at the senator but makes a legitimate observation that the senator planned to escape criticism by saying he didn’t intend for his statement to be considered factual. By viewing this clip I learned the true percentages of the services Planned Parenthood provides, and that Senator Jon Kyl is not the most unbiased and trusted source of data on that issue in particular. I could, as a concerned citizen, even extend that to presume that Kyl is unwilling to research issues before he makes statements in general, at least on issues that he and his party are opposed to. And Colbert was not just doing a stand-up show, he actually showed documentation for each of his assertions. He had a recording of Kyl saying the initiator, a clip of a CNN reporter saying Kyl’s response for was us not to take what he said as a factual statement, and he had a graphic showing the breakdown of Planned Parenthood’s services.

This new trend in news delivering is a smart idea in my book. Sure, I enjoy it because I believe I share the same sentiments as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, but these shows offer a lot more than just biased reactions. Aside from being entertaining to those of us who are critical of political goings-on, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report offer a view of the other side. This way, people who find themselves the butt of the joke or supporters of those made fun of on air can see how their actions and speech are perceived by a different audience. This is an open dialogue for people to give feedback, and prepare better for next time. A wise man would take the criticism and try to work on it, a fool would be offended and ignore whatever it was that was said.

Sadly, I think that this may not be the answer to political bickering, many people will simply be offended or choose not to watch the show at all. But,even a conservative could appreciate the witty remarks pulled off by Colbert and Stewart. So a bigger advantage presented by these entertainment/journalistic shows is that they draw people to issues that they wouldn’t have even noticed before. The Daily Show has tons of staffers going through the day’s headlines to find material for the night’s show; they simply have more hands and brains to consume news than a singular person ever would. They choose the stuff that they can make fun of, but they also choose relevant issues, because relevancy is a factor in humor. If you told me a joke about something President Wilson did during his presidency, I probably wouldn’t laugh. Tell me a joke about President Obama or any of the candidates running for president in the Republican Party and I’m much more liable to hoot and holler. Before I started watching Colbert and Stewart at a tender age of 17 I didn’t consume any news, not purposefully or directly at any rate. Their shows broadened my view of America and the world, and for the first time I was interested in the world around me. Even if a show such as theirs only appeals to liberal-leaning youths, at least it’s getting them out of their world and into ours.


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