College life can be busy. Between school, homework, jobs, clubs and friends, there isn’t always a lot of time to stay up to date on the news. One way a lot of young people stay informed is through political comedy shows like “The Daily Show with John Stewart” and “The Colbert Report”.
These shows report on current events with a humorous, satirical tone. As each show isn’t considered a legitimate news source, one might assume that their viewers might be less informed than someone who watches CNN or CBS. Additionally, these shows have an obvious bias that informs the delivery of the material and what material is presented to the viewer and what is left out.
Unlike on other news sources, the hosts aren’t trying to pretend to be objective; they’re putting their own political agenda front and center. However, despite all of this, these shows are doing a better job of informing their audience than their more serious competitors.
University of Pennsylvania studies during the last election cycle found that “Colbert Report” viewers, network news viewers, newspaper readers and talk radio listeners were all likely to report that they were knowledgeable about campaign finance issues, but Colbert Report viewers actually had the best understanding. Another study might provide the answer why.
In 2012, the Washington Post blog “The Fix” reported that each time Colbert discussed super PACs and other types of campaign finance, mention of them rose dramatically online. This corroborates other findings that have suggested that people who watch Stephen Colbert’s antics are more likely to then do additional research and readings on their own to fill in the gaps in their knowledge. If the goal of the news media is to inform its viewers and spark an interest in self-informing, then perhaps humor is the best news delivery system after all.
While satire and humor may not be the best place to get both sides of every news story, they clearly have benefits beyond just laughs for Millennials.