In July 1996, broadcast journalism as comedic entertainment was fulfilled with “The Daily Show.” This program highlights contradiction and hypocrisy within democracy. While the “Saturday Night Live” returning segment "Weekend Update" has been around since 1975, “The Daily Show” was the first instance of an entire show centered around satirical journalism.
Before Trevor Noah hosted “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart was the lead from 1999 to 2015. Jon Stewart became the show’s most notable host through his 16-year tenure.
Satirical journalism serves as a reliable source of news and delivers news in a way that keeps viewers interested. Satirical journalism helps maintain a well-informed democracy.
“The Daily Show” set the stage for satirical journalism.
“Stewart’s ‘Daily Show’ started to become something of its own, turning a lens on the spectacle of the mass-mediated body politic and the body dysmorphia induced by the 24-hour news cycle,” Literary Hub writer Dawn Herrera Helphand said.
But what changed the landscape of satirical journalism was the abundance of shows adopting the same style of “The Daily Show” — other shows that would be hosted by John Oliver and Stephen Colbert, who both got their starts on “The Daily Show.”
“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” “The Colbert Report” and “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” arguably wouldn’t be possible without the success of “The Daily Show,” which ultimately created a new genre of television.
The popularity of satirical journalism can also be seen through Stephen Colbert’s long-running show, “The Colbert Report.”
According to a 2014 study by Pew Research, more people had heard of “The Colbert Report” than other news sources like NPR, The Economist and BuzzFeed. 10% of adults with online access said they received news from “The Colbert Report” in the previous week, which is the same percentage of adults who received news from the Wall Street Journal and USA Today.
A study from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and the School of Communication at Ohio State University found when compared to non-humorous news clips, viewers are more likely to share humorously-presented news and they’re more likely to remember the content from these segments.
“For democracy to work, it is really important for people to engage with news and politics and to be informed about public affairs,” Emily Falk, Annenberg professor of communication, psychology and marketing said.
“Our findings show that humor stimulates activity in brain regions associated with social engagement, improves memory for political facts, and increases the tendency to share political information with others,” Jason Coronel, Ohio State assistant professor of communication, said.
Satirical journalism also serves as a legitimate source of news, and it shouldn’t be discredited because of its comedic commentary or loose leaf political bias.
If we invalidate satirical journalism because of political bias, it discredits main news outlets like CNN, Fox News and MSNBC as well.
According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 77% of respondents believe the media tends to favor one side. If we were to discredit all news networks because they expressed a political bias, more than half of U.S. news sources would be renounced.
Satirical programs first started as comedic relief, but they’ve become a source of news for many Americans, showing the American public’s increasing reliance on these shows to understand American democracy.
The growing popularity of satirical journalism is consistent with society’s decreasing attention span.
A study done by a team of European scientists showed the constant information cycle makes people lose interest more quickly.
The popularity of SNL’s weekly segment “Weekend Update” exemplifies this point. The segment demonstrates a recurring pattern, headline, explanation and joke all encompassed in 15-30 seconds. The delivery is incredibly popular because it’s short and sweet.
No one wants to listen to an elongated version of a news story when they can absorb it and get a laugh out of it in just 30 seconds.
Satirical journalism took off with “The Daily Show” 25 years ago. Today, shows made possible by what “The Daily Show” built continue to grow in popularity, deliver truthful content and correspond with how viewers react to the news.
Jacob Spudich (he/him) is a freshman studying journalism and political science. He is a DJ for the WIUX student radio station, a member of Hoosier Health Advocates and a huge Detroit Tigers fan.