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The Daily Show as Substantive as Broadcast News 669

Walter C. writes "Anyone who watches the evening news with any regularity knows that it's not a bastion of substance. However, a new study conducted by researchers at Indiana University reports that The Daily Show has just as much substance to it as the broadcast news. 'The researchers looked at coverage of the 2004 Democratic and Republican national conventions and the first presidential debate of the fall campaign, all of which were covered by the mainstream broadcast news outlets and The Daily Show... There was just as much substance to The Daily Show's coverage as there was on the network news. And The Daily Show was much funnier, with less of the hype — references to photo ops, political endorsements, and polls — that typically overshadows substantive coverage on network news, according to the study.'"
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The Daily Show as Substantive as Broadcast News

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  • by lottameez ( 816335 ) on Wednesday October 04, 2006 @09:28PM (#16315343)
    Of course I didn't RTFM, but it seems that researchers independently deciding that The Daily Show had more substance than MSM news orgs is hardly surprising or particularly illuminating. It seems like they (like most of us), probably just like the show better.

    IMO, Jay Leno's monologue is an equally good news source.
  • by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) on Wednesday October 04, 2006 @09:30PM (#16315375)
    Saying that the Daily Show is as substantive as broadcast news based solely on reporting during the political conventions (two events) is a stretch, and hardly supports extrapolating the idea to a general statement about The Daily Show verses real news. This is very weak, and very typical of Slashdot "editing".
  • by kingbilly ( 993754 ) on Wednesday October 04, 2006 @09:37PM (#16315423)
    You'll also notice that the daily show is one of the only "news" outlets that will show a video clip of a public figure saying one thing in 2004, then a new video with them saying something that completely goes against their first comment on the matter in 2004. None of the big news outlets dare show such a stunt because that would make public figures accountable. Of course the daily show usually has Jon Stewert making a funny face and then goes to the next topic, but at least they aren't afraid to make someone eat their own words.
  • Not very strange (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tony ( 765 ) on Wednesday October 04, 2006 @09:45PM (#16315517) Journal
    This supports other studies that have been done, too. The Daily Show audiences tend to be better informed than folks who subsist solely on conventional news sources. This might have to do with the audience, or it might have to do with The Daily Show; in any case, Jon Stewart is doing a fuck-all great job.

    By the time he's done, I feel I've received a less-biased, more-balanced view of the real news than an hour's worth of stupid-ass fake news given us by the mainstream channels.

    But maybe that's just me.
  • by i.of.the.storm ( 907783 ) on Wednesday October 04, 2006 @09:52PM (#16315581) Homepage
    My AP World History teacher last year recommended it over regular news. This was no ordinary teacher, he got a 100% passage rate on an extremely difficult test for his class.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 04, 2006 @09:59PM (#16315647)
    Now, they are ALL about "entertainment".

    True. This is why CBS hired Katie Couric as their evening news anchor. If they were a little smarter they would have hired Jon Stewart and Dennis Miller as coanchors.

    On a side note, I think Colbert best summed up the reporting/entertainment quality of the morning news shows when they recently took one of his clips out of context [].
  • by Arivia ( 783328 ) <> on Wednesday October 04, 2006 @10:11PM (#16315767) Journal
    The CBC? They're very good, but I've grown up with them.
  • by dave420 ( 699308 ) on Wednesday October 04, 2006 @10:16PM (#16315813)

    The BBC's politeness is due to them refraining from using biassed language ("bombers" versus "terrorists", etc.). They do do some very deep investigations - I don't know if they make it to the US (BBC News 24 is just one tiny facet of the reporting).

    Trying to find one news source to get your news is a bad idea - more than one source is essential, just to make sure you're getting as much information as possible.

  • Highest bidder (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Xybot ( 707278 ) on Wednesday October 04, 2006 @10:43PM (#16316065)
    I've been wondering recently if the US news services are actually taking money/favours when putting together their news broadcasts. With what is happening in US politics I'm absolutely astounded that the media are not having a field day with some of these events. Why are people not being held accountable? Why are the hard questions not being asked? The only people who seem to be doing this are Stewart, Colbert and Olbermann and 2 out of the 3 are working under the guise of comedy.

    I thought the visit by George Galloway to the US Congress highlighted some of the differences in the way politics works in different democracies, he basically stunned the congress by simply refuting the facts and pointing out the reality of the situation without worrying about ruffling feathers, at this point I thought that cultural differences may explain the poor news coverage, in that it was simply the American way to not want to be seen to criticise itself in any way, but some of the most recent coverage I've seen has been too blatantly partisan than to be explained away by any other means than someones getting paid to spin news stories.

    I feel it is of vital importance to a healthy political system to have a strong independant news source that is funded by public money outside of governmental/corporate control. Do you have one in the USA that i'm not aware of?
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Wednesday October 04, 2006 @10:50PM (#16316137) Homepage Journal
    Well the article might say that but I tend to find TDS more informative. If you want reasonably objective news, try NPR. They seem less biased than almost everyone else. Notice I don't say "not biased" so don't reply that they're so far left that one's dragging the ground. If you think that you're probably so far right that the wrong one's dragging the ground.

    Anyway even with a couple of high qualty sources a few stories still fall through the cracks. If you really want to stay in the know, you need some helper monkeys to ferret out dirt for you. For example, the communications act that the house was debating a while back (S. 2686) from our good buddy Ted Stevens. You'd think the proposed regulations to the Internet would warrant comment from someone. But not so much... Likewise the Treasury department's mandate that Credit Card companies double their minimum payments last year. Didn't hear about that one on the news (Well NPR picked the story up 3 months after I got it.) Helper monkeys, yeah...

    So go with NPR, the comedy central "News" shows and some helper monkeys and you'll be reasonably well informed. I'm still trying to convince my helper monkeys to blog but they don't seem to be in to the whole Internet thing (Which is pretty astounding considering how good they are at ferreting out information...)

  • by be-fan ( 61476 ) on Wednesday October 04, 2006 @11:07PM (#16316299)
    The economist is very good. They've got something of a libertarian bias, but they're open about it. There analysis is much more in-depth than what you'll see most other places.
  • by AFairlyNormalPerson ( 721898 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @12:23AM (#16316897) Journal
    "Yes, but the Daily Show is not SUPPOSED to have "substance". It's on the COMEDY CHANNEL for chrissakes."

    I kind of thought that it WAS supposed to have substance... I mean, isn't that part of the joke?
  • by Pedrito ( 94783 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @12:25AM (#16316911)
    Yes, but the Daily Show is not SUPPOSED to have "substance". It's on the COMEDY CHANNEL for chrissakes.

    Yes and no. The daily show is supposed to be funny, but I think it's very clear that, on a certain level, it's about raising important issues. They do it by making fun of the ridiculously stupid things that are happening. Unfortunately, the current government in the U.S. is just a goldmine of material for them.

    I'll give you an example. Back when the plot to blow up planes flying out of Britian was uncovered, they ran an episode where he was interviewing John Oliver, one of their "correspondants". The exchange went something like this:

    Stewart: John, will these steps server to diffuse the threat is the question?

    Oliver: Not at all John. Unfortunately there's a larger issue here. The fact is, the men arrested are British citizens, which means the form of government in Britian must not be democracy. For as you know, Democracy is the only known antidote to extremism.

    Stewart: So what does that mean?

    Oliver: It means ranging change John. America must topple the British government...

    Now, funny, yes. Hysterical even. But look at what they're doing: They're showing how absolutely ludicrous the rhetoric of the current administration is. I don't know of a single news program that could show that in a clearer way than to do it with humor, as they have. It's incredibly effective.

    So yes, they're on Comedy Central, but I don't think that means they should be or even try to be devoid of substance. On the contrary, I think humor is simply their way of delivering substance.
  • by Will Sargent ( 2751 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @01:57AM (#16317397) Homepage
    The Christian Science Monitor has a decent news website, They actually do a pretty good job of reporting events (although their analysis reflects their bent, of course).
  • by HyperHyper ( 519220 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @02:02AM (#16317421)
    This side thread was amusing... it got pushed up a notch when the "low hanging fruit" expression was misused by the guy who posted the link to cynicism because some people just don't get it. []
    I almost think he did it on purpose... that's what my cover story would be.
  • by rynthetyn ( 618982 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @03:00AM (#16317705) Journal
    I'm about as conservative as you can get on most issues, but I still enjoy watching The Daily Show. I've found that those conservatives with a sense of humor and a willingness to laugh at the absurdity that is politics (and who are we kidding, the whole thing gets pretty bizarre at times) are more inclined to like The Daily Show. It's those who take themselves too seriously who don't like it.

    Besides, if you actually want to know what people think, Jon Stewart's interviews are far more informative than those on the rest of cable news because they don't degenerate into screaming fests. Heck, I've even managed to convince my Limbaugh listening, Hannity watching parents that it's worth watching the show for the interviews, if nothing else.
  • by hey ( 83763 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @03:19AM (#16317769) Journal
    I actually thought Crossfire was kinda fun -- like a sport.
  • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @04:17AM (#16318001) Homepage
    It would appear to me (from my limited viewing of the show) that he approaches it from a fairly Jeffersonian liberal perspective. In other words, both the Dems and Reps are (as he said) "hurting America". They're both terribly divergent from the ideal.

    I do enjoy it, but being one of those "Jefferson liberals" who likes to see fiscal responsibility and a lack of government meddling, and thinks the government shouldn't have anything to do with what you're doing at home provided nobody othre than yourslef is being harmed, I still see a slight liberal slant to the show.
  • by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @05:03AM (#16318169) Journal
    When was the last time you saw actual analysis and comparisons of a politician's statements on a regular news program.

    After living in the US for several years (and having generally stopped watching the news because it did not contain any news) I caught a BBC world service interview with a US diplomat about the US opposition to the international criminal court. The interviewer literaly wiped the floor with this guy but without, in any way, being hostile or argumentative - she did it simply by asking questions and using his answers against him to point out the utter absurdity of his position. Like Jon Stewart but in a serious fashion.

    After seeing that interview it was immediately clear to me why I hated the regular US news: they never ask sensible questions and follow up by pointing out the complete absurdity of the responses. I guess that part of the reason for this is that if they did start to ask tough questions they would lose priviliged access to the president which would then kill their career.

    It seems to me that the US has a system which claims freedom of the press but then imposes relatively severe consequences if a reporter were to exercise that freedom. In my opinion this is very unhealthy thing for a democracy.
  • by ben there... ( 946946 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @06:07AM (#16318501) Journal
    If you'd read the article you linked to it talks about The Daily Show vs. The Tonight Show and The Late Show. I wouldn't call either of those network news.

    How about an article that compares The Daily Show to O'Reilly? []

    Summary: Bill O'Reilly asserted that "[m]any Americans ages 18 to 24 have no idea what's going on," stating that they "get their news from [Comedy Central host] Jon Stewart and their point of view from bomb-throwing entertainers." In fact, studies have shown that viewers of Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart are consistently better informed about current events than consumers of other media, and Daily Show viewers are significantly better educated than viewers of The O'Reilly Factor. Further, consumers of Fox News in general have been found to be significantly more misinformed about current events than consumers of other mainstream media.

    In 2004, the nonpartisan Annenberg Public Policy Center released its National Annenberg Election Survey, which found Daily Show viewers to be better informed on campaign issues than consumers of other late-night television programs, newspapers, network news, or cable news.

    The survey asked respondents to answer a six-question quiz designed to measure "political knowledge." Daily Show viewers ages 18 to 29 scored higher than those who consumed any amount of network news, any amount of newspapers, or one to three days of cable news; young Daily Show viewers scored the same as young viewers who watched four or more days of cable news.

    Additionally, an October 2003 study conducted by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy (PIPA) found Fox News viewers were "significantly more likely to have misperceptions" about the Iraq war than all other media consumers. The study was "based on a series of seven US polls conducted from January through September" 2003 and measured respondents' "key perceptions and beliefs" on "US policy" in Iraq. The study found that "[t]hose who receive most of their news from Fox News are more likely than average to have misperceptions." For instance, of the "three key misperceptions" -- which the study listed as "the beliefs that ... links between Iraq and al-Qaeda have been found, that WMD have been found in Iraq and that world public opinion approved of the US going to war with Iraq" -- Fox News watchers were found not only to be the "most likely to hold misperceptions," but "were more than twice as likely than the next nearest network to hold all three misperceptions." The PIPA study found that 80 percent of Fox News viewers held at least one of the three misperceptions.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 05, 2006 @07:01AM (#16318753)
    The Christian Science Monitor [] is widely regarded as an excellent, high quality news source.

    Ignore the name: they are devoted to good reporting. They don't use wire services, and most of their editors are also reporters.

    Check it out []!

  • by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @07:22AM (#16318883)

    The hosts even had the nerve to compare their show to his, and he laughed at them and told them it was on comedy central.

    Yeah, but that was a completely cowardly way out. He claimed rossfire is biased. The other guy responded by saying Stewart is too. Stewart then responds that that's OK because he's on comedy central.

    He wants to play it both ways. If he's just a comedian, why should I listen to him criticize the news? On the other hand, if he's a "respectable" news guy, he should bear the same responsibility for objectivity that he's criticizing the other guy for. So don't give me this "I have sock puppets leading into me" crap.

    I never watched Crossfire, so I've got no horse in this race. But that sort of exchange is why I've never been able to stand Stewart's shows (going back to his MTV days). He's snide, condescending, and he doesn't want the same light shined on him that he points everywhere else. In regular society, that's called "hypocritical."

  • by Junior J. Junior III ( 192702 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @07:57AM (#16319113) Homepage
    The problem is, the Daily Show is primarily interested in connecting the dots to "funny" and to the producers/creators/audiences biases, and not connecting the dots to "truth". There's often truth in humor, but there's just as often exaggeration, hyperbole, and outright falseness. I like the show because it's blunt and biased in a way that I find agreeable, but I can't say that I believe everything I hear on that show, or that I believe that they care passionately about "getting it right" every time out.
  • by Shaper_pmp ( 825142 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @08:05AM (#16319165)
    it is free to say things that traditional news shows can't or won't (ironically, because they want to preserve their reputation for "objectivity", which is in tatters nevertheless... because objectivity is an impossible standard to reach, even in principle. One person's "straight facts" are another person's "obvious bias").

    Sorry - I agree with almost everything you said, but unless you were being sarcastic here I have to call complete bullshit.

    1. The news media's credibility is in tatters because in the USA you lack a proper, independant news media - almost every show or channel is shilling for one party or the other, separated only by degree. The fact is that the news media isn't even trying for objectivity any more, let alone trying and failing.

    2. Objectivity is an "impossible standard to reach", but then so is "law-abiding", "equality" and "moral". That doesn't stop anyone from agreeing we should try to be each of those, so why does it excuse the news media's descent into partiality?

    Maybe you weren't offering this phrase as any kind of excuse, but it's the favourite get-out of media-bias apologists and a pet hate of mine so I'm kind of on a hair-trigger for it now - apologies if so.

    3. "Straight facts" are straight facts, and "obvious bias" is obvious bias. People always try to claim their opinions are facts, but these people are wrong. Please don't imply they're in any way interchangeable, even jokingly. There are plenty of fuckwits out there who honestly believe this is true already.

    These people also often try to claim that "obvious facts" are "someone else's opinion". These people are retreating from reality, refusing to confront essential facts, and are arguably therefore not merely wrong, but actually insane.
  • by Smurf ( 7981 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @08:17AM (#16319259)
    That's quite true. A few years back, when I lived in my home country, the cable network offered three CNN channels: the "normal" one, CNN International, and CNN en Español, along with Fox News, and several news channels from Europe: BBC, DW (Germany), RAI (Italy), TVE (Spain), a French one called Channel 5 or something; and also a few from Latin America.

    From the what I could gather from the channels in the languages I don't speak, all the non-US channels did a fairly good job at covering news from outside their own countries. It was shocking to see how crappy the basic CNN and Fox were. In particular it was shocking because CNN International was about as good as the international ones, and CNN en Español managed to cover with some depth the news from ALL Latin America (including Brazil) plus Spain and Portugal, and STILL the coverage of news from US, Canada and the rest of the world was very good - much better than the regular CNN.

    The saddest part is that all CNN channels claimed to be produced in their studios in Atlanta, and of course they shared the same material. So the problem is not that the basic CNN channel doesn't have access to high quality material, it's that they deliberately choose not to present it, most certainly because their main audience has no interest in it.

  • by ivano ( 584883 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @08:36AM (#16319443)
    Also not to forget the guests that plug their books. Heck half of my reading material seems to come from watching that show and saying "hey that looks like a good book to read". Currently I'm reading "No god but God" by Reza Aslan (no link since I'm not whoring :)

    In fact, I would love to compare the reading list between TDS and, say, O'Reilly Factor.


  • by Ubergrendle ( 531719 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @08:43AM (#16319545) Journal
    He's thrown softballs to Bill O'Reilly and that Afghan Hound Lookalike Ann Coulter, even though you KNOW he's ready to annihilate them with a small burst of logical discourse 101. His interview segments are very soft fluff; if they weren't, no one would ever go on his show. Remember Rosie O'Donnell? Not my cup-o-tea, but she had a highly rated talk show UNTIL she ambushed Tom Selleck on the topic of gun control. After that she couldn't book any guests, and her show suffered... it was doom.

    If Bush had shown up for an interview before his 2nd term, he too would probably have gotten a soft interview. Now there's just too much baggage to let him off; he barely shows up in public for fear of being subpoenaed and/or indicted I suspect.
  • by stunt_penguin ( 906223 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @09:20AM (#16320011)
    The interview with the Pakistani Leader, to which the show dedicated half the programme (or at least the version of the programme shown here in Ireland by Channel 4- we get every programme the evening after), was IMHO a superb piece of journalism and actually managed to shed new light on the interviewee, rather than just pester him with the same 10 questions he gets on every onther news station.

    Many a serious thing is said in jest.

    Anyway, thein joking about how 'convenient' that it was that this story leaked just a month before the mid-terms, the programme unintentionally provoked in me a little conspiracy theory I came up with (but don't give that much credence to) about the Republicans; on Friday the house voted to redefine the rights afforded to prisoners in U.S custody.... something that deserves massive media coverage as it's a sign of the creeping 1984 state that seems just around the corner.....

    Instead the media circus has contentrated on this insignificant little paedophile prick who won't even appear in the footnotes of history, taking the heat off of a law which gives Bush (for it is he who now defines what torture is) the right to treat prisoners in whatever way he sees fit.

  • by kalidasa ( 577403 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @09:31AM (#16320145) Journal
    Note to mods: parent posting (my own posting) is *not* a +5 post. I expected to get hit for flamebait on this, but I am sick and tired of Republicans talking about how they and only they represent "American values" - especially now that we can see that the Emperor has no clothes (when he's IMing his pages).
  • by kthejoker ( 931838 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @11:05AM (#16321645)
    Any good book on the relativity of truth will tell you that the word "fact" is itself a fiction. It's like lying with statistics. It's not the facts that are important, it's how they are displayed and presented. It's as important what is not shown as what is shown. And that's what the original poster is getting at. Even the most apolitical entity will show bias if one looks for it.

    Consider two economic facts: New home sales in America rose by 1.1% in August. New home sales in America rose by 0.9% in September.

    Consider the presentation of these two facts:

    "More new homes were sold."
    "Sales of new homes are slowing."
    "The housing market is in decline."
    "The housing market is stagnant."
    "The housing market is growing at a steady rate."
    "Housing is showing a seasonal decline."

    What biases can you discover in these?

    Then consider all the assumptions about capitalism, economic rent, urban growth, the arbitrary granularity of "one month" in determining economic output, the use of percentages rather than dollar values (possibly hiding a rise in low-cost housing), the environment, sociological norms, cultural values, and the relevance of monthly new home sales on any future decision you may make in your lifetime.

    What about the economics report that ignores this metric altogether, but focuses on the rise in consumer spending instead? What about the report that ignores the rise in spending to focus on this decline in housing? (Is housing even in decline?)

    No single entity can hope to glean all the facts on an issue, and there are no doubt conflicting reports about the current state of the economy, diplomacy, the arts, health care, etc. at any given moment. To suggest that with all the facts on the table one can come to a rock-solid conclusion - that somehow interpretation of facts is devoid of bias - is not just wrong, but preposterous.
  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Thursday October 05, 2006 @12:12PM (#16322883) Homepage Journal

    The republican party has been hijacked by the religious right. this is not just propaganda, this is a fact. Our president said on national television that he believes that god works through him, in so many words. He has repeatedly cited religious motivation for his decisions.

    Abortion is not a straw man issue. It is a fundamental religious debate at its root. Most people agree that it's wrong to take life (although as others have pointed out, the death penalty is a rejection of that supposedly christian value and law of god, "thou shalt not kill") but the religious aspect enters the picture when we talk about when life begins. Hell, we can't even agree on what life means. To me, it's when you're capable of both learning and cognitive thought, which in my book reduces it to a scientific question, but that is not what the religious right feels. To them, it's a question of faith.

    I firmly believe that the republican party is under the control of the religious right, and of big/old money. Are you aware that the republican party used to be the party of small government and states' rights? And that the definition of conservative is that you support control of people's lives, but not of the market, whereas the definition of liberal is the opposite? But now, both parties want to control business in different ways, and your life in different ways. Republicans want to enact laws that give advantages to some businesses, and to require that you live your life by the bible (again, because the party is under the control of the religious right.) Democrats want to enact laws that regulate all businesses, and to require that you live your life in a way that will not offend anyone.

    Both parties are utterly corrupt, but the major difference is that the republicans' plan will lead us to the world of 1984 much quicker. I think both parties' roads lead there, however.

  • by optikSmoke ( 264261 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @01:57PM (#16324695)
    I've noticed this phenomenon as well. Living in Canada and getting American network news, it always surprises me when I hear rants on American TV or the Internet about the "extreme" left bias of various perspectives that would rate centre or just-right-of-centre in Canada.

    To me, discussion of the biases of media sources rarely reaches an accurate depiction of those biases. However, it is generally very informative of the biases of those in the discussion. Particularly considering people's perception of media bias (see for eg the Wikipedia article on the topic []). To quote:

    A major problem in studies is experimentor bias. Studies of US Media Bias studies show that A) Liberal experimentors tend to get results that say the media has a conservative bias, B) conservative experimentors get results indicating a liberal bias, and C) experimentors that do not identify themselves as either liberal or conservative do not detect any bias. This issue may arise from a tendency to accept a reporter's statement that matches one's own bias, even if no evidence is presented to support it. In contrast, statements that disagree with a personal bias tend to be remembered as distinctly biased, especially if evidence is not submitted.

    In other words, people's perception of media bias is heavily influenced by disconfirmation bias [] (specifically, the hostile media effect []). They do not scrutinize a reporter's position if it agrees with them, and (over-)scrutinize when it does not -- leading to a perception of a bias opposite their own.

    Thus, I find that the bias a person generally sees in media (and the perceived strength and ubiquity of that bias) are excellent indicators of how skewed their own politics are. They can also be good indicators of how clouded that person's vision is by their own beliefs.

Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed. -- Neil Armstrong