Call it generational, blame it on technology or the media, but in any case, satirical news sources are making their mark, especially on younger generations.
According to the media public opinion polling company Rasmussen Reports, 30 percent of young American adults aged 18 to 29 think satirical news-oriented television programs like “The Colbert Report” and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” are taking the place of traditional news outlets.
Though this is not a majority, this is still a considerable number to consider it a trend for some.
“This is not a good trend because we need a strong independent journalism in this country, which we are sorely missing these days,” said Greg Novak of Novak Marketing, a market researching company, in an e-mail interview.
Tom Foremski, a former Financial Times journalist and blogger for Silicon Valley Watcher who reports on business and culture, disagrees. He believes they are actually mainstream sources because they are viewed by millions of people each night.
“They offer a valuable service in that they do present actual news, unlike The Onion which makes up its news. Those shows cannot replace mainstream news sources because they rely on them for their material, they do not employ journalists or reporters,” Foremski said in an e-mail. “They are distributors of mainstream news sources and augment them. They offer a valuable news distribution system that keeps people informed.“
Thirty-nine percent of adults in the report say programs of this nature are making Americans more informed about news events. Others think that these programs lead to a less informed electorate.
“If these programs replaced regular news broadcasting the understanding of important national and international policies would be reduced to a punch line,” said Davis College Republicans vice chair of Internal Affairs Tierney Burke in an e-mail interview. “They do not cover the depth of the issues facing America.“
The survey also says that 21 percent of adults characterize these type of programs as at least somewhat influential in shaping their political opinions, including 7 percent who say they are very influential.
“I only watched these shows during campaign season and I found them humorous but not appropriate sources for the news,” Burke said. “People should watch them for entertainment but get a grasp of the political world through real news sources.“
Don Gibson, president of Davis College Democrats has a different view.
“The trend should force media outlets to not just report both sides but to also have analysis between their reporting,” Gibson said in an e-mail. “These new programs are definitely taking the place of traditional media. It is likely this way because shows like “The Daily Show” are going after people and pointing out hypocrisy that traditional media does not.“
Although Foremski thinks these programs keep people informed, he is wary of commentary and analysis type sources taking over the entire media.
“Software engineers have a saying: garbage in, garbage out. I believe society will suffer because we need high quality news gathering and reporting so that we can make decisions about many very important issues,” Foremeski said. “And the reason we are losing this news reporting capability is that the shift to digital distribution doesn’t provide a business model that can support large numbers of journalists. One of our most important issues is fixing the media business model problem.“
This news of satirical programs starting to replace more traditional sources is another blow to the newspaper industry.
A survey from Rasmussen earlier in March also found that younger adults are reading newspapers less, with only 15 percent of those under 40 reading a local print daily.
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.