Soft New's Hard Impact - AND Magazine
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By Phillip LeRoy
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Soft New's Hard Impact
Is The Daily Show Detrimental to Democracy?
Jon Stewart
Jon Stewart
Jon Stewart (born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz; November 28, 1962) is an American political satirist, writer, television host, actor, media critic and stand-up comedian. He is widely known as host of The Daily Show, a satirical news program that airs on Comedy Central. | Photo: Archives
ALSO | comedian | Comedy Central
When Jon Stewart opens his mouth, people listen, and more often than not, they chuckle at his ability to find silliness in serious news. The Daily Show is informal, it's different, and it's a break from the doldrums of hard news. It is political cartooning in talk show television. But, is it good for democracy?

The answer is yes. There is concern that The Daily Show's young audience are gathering the entirety of their information from similar, mock news shows like The Colbert Report or SNL, and shying away from hard, factual news. According to data from the Pew Research Center, 47.7% of young people age 18-24 watch The Daily Show "occasionally" with 25% admitting they pay no attention to hard news whatsoever. Those numbers are damning.

But keep in mind that for viewers to understand any of the jokes they might hear on The Daily Show or any similar program, they must have a solid grasp on the political process or current events in order to find the jokes amusing. Plain and simple: if you don't understand politics you don't watch The Daily Show.

The Daily Show allows the audience to see politics through a different window. It's a window filled with spoofs, mockery and entertainment. That doesn't make it any more invalid than Fox, MSNBC or CNN. It simply makes it different. Of course people shouldn't rely solely on The Daily Show to gather information, just as they shouldn't rely solely on one of the big three news networks. Finding new avenues to view politics, as in The Daily Show

Perhaps our democracy is in trouble if people trust a comedian more than traditional media.
, isn't a useless pursuit. It's a reasonable counter effort to mainstream media and should not be blamed for its alluring nature.

The Daily Show generally portrays politicians and media in a negative light. This negativity is said to discourage political participation among The Daily Show's audience. People tend to remember and carry humor with them, so the plethora of negative jokes that they take away from an entire show is probably going to shape some of their opinions. However, Stewart is rarely vituperative on The Daily Show. Rather, he's challenging traditional news media, politicians and journalists by providing a critically comedic perspective.

In a true representative democracy there needs to be a certain level of cynicism among the public. Blind faith toward government and media is amiss. The Daily Show is TV's adaptation of checks and balances. Perhaps our democracy is in trouble if people trust a comedian more than traditional media, but one can't fault Jon Stewart and The Daily Show for keeping them in check.

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"Soft New's Hard Impact | Is The Daily Show Detrimental to Democracy?"
Editorial ID #12181, 428 words, first released April 27, 2012, 12:00 am
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