I was watching TV the other day. Usually when I watch TV, I go straight for the reruns of “Law & Order.” There are so many; who can claim to have seen them all? Not I!
On Wednesday morning, however, I decided to be a good journalist and watch the “news.” Now, I’m not a crazy conspiracy theorist, I don’t think the government can see me through my TV (although I usually get dressed before I watch “Law & Order,” just in case) and I am usually fairly trusting of the media. But not after Wednesday.
Because on Wednesday, I turned on the “news,” and instead of post-election coverage or war coverage or even weather coverage, CNN Headline News was showing Bigfoot coverage. Yes, Bigfoot. A mythical creature with large feet that allegedly skulks around the mountains and supposedly terrorizes the innocent, although nobody knows for sure. Luckily for us, CNN Headline News is on the case!
And, also luckily for us, there are a few shows that actually cover what’s going on in the world. Because while CNN Headline News was featuring a story about Bigfoot, who is not actually a person, The Daily Show chose Wednesday to do a feature about Iran and interview Ted Koppel, who is an actual person – albeit one who looks sedated a majority of the time.
We, college students, are getting more of our news from shows like “The Daily Show” than ever before. And by turning away from traditional media, it also seems that we’re turning away from traditional politics as well, living in our own universe where we can watch funny, informative TV and daydream about how great it would actually be to have politicians we trusted and liked. How else do we explain the preponderance of “Stewart/Colbert 2008” bumper stickers or t-shirts, or the 266 Facebook groups that pop up when you search for “Jon Stewart”?
In this strange little alternate land, it seems that some people actually believe that Jon Stewart is a real news man, not just a fake journalist with “gravitas.dignity.and balls.”
But we’re not alone. It’s easy to say that only college students are watching “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” and calling for the political punsters to run for office. But then how do you explain the hundreds of scholarly articles written to try to understand the fake news phenomenon, or the Maureen Dowd article in this month’s “Rolling Stone”?
It makes you wonder just how ridiculous the American media has become when more people every day are getting their news from shows that claim to be “unburdened by objectivity, journalistic integrity or even accuracy.”
In a 2004 study done by Indiana University, researcher Julia Fox found that in comparisons between “The Daily Show” and traditional network coverage, networks had more hype than actual substance in their shows. “The Daily Show,” which claims to have more humor than substance, actually matched the network newscasts in terms of substantive reporting. And that’s no joke.
I suppose this trend should be upsetting to me. I may be on TV one day and I would hope that more people would trust me, a soon-to-be trained professional, to give them the news as opposed to men who make up words like “Lincolnish;” who put Lutherans, owls and bow-tie pasta on a hit list; or who refer to the elections as “the midterm midtacular.” But I’m not upset. And why? Because I, too, think we deserve more substance, more coverage and a lot more truthfulness in our news.
Even for those who don’t necessarily jive with the liberal lean of these shows, you have to admit that they are hilarious and informative, especially more so than CNN. And if Bigfoot truly is on the loose, I’m sure “The Daily Show” will have coverage of that, too.
Hilary Davis is a senior technical journalism major. Her column appears every Friday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.