Analyzing the . . . Daily Show?

Posted May 8, 2008 at 5:48pm

Jon Stewart himself might have a good laugh over this: the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism studied the content of The Daily Show for all of 2007 to see how it was different or similar to the mainstream press in terms of what it covered (in its own unique way). After all, Pew noted, its survey on the prominence of best-know journalists in March 2007 found that Stewart tied in the rankings with anchormen Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather and cable host Anderson Cooper.

So, to answer the question Pew posed for itself – is the Daily Show journalism, satire or just laughs? – it came up with these findings:

– The program’s “clearest focus” is politics, especially Beltway politics which accounted for nearly 47 percent of its air time. “Overall, “The Daily Show” news agenda is quite close to those of cable news talk shows,” Pew said.
– Stewart’s skewering of the press takes up about 8 percent of the program.
– The show focused its satire on Republicans three times as often as Democrats during the period of July 1 through November 1.
– The show avoids, for obvious reasons, major events covered by the conventional media when they have to do with tragedies like the Minneapolis Bridge Collapse or Virginia Tech shootings.

Pew noted that Stewart has always said his show is not journalism, but concluded, that it “aims at more than comedy. In its choice of topics, its use of news footage to deconstruct the manipulations by public figures and its tendency toward pointed satire over playing just for laughs, “The Daily Show” performs a function that is close to journalistic in nature — getting people to think critically about the public square. In that sense, it is a variation of the tradition of Russell Baker, Art Hoppe, Art Buchwald, H.L. Mencken and other satirists who once graced the pages of American newspapers.”

So, now that you’ve read this far, you might as well watch Stewart’s interview of John McCain from yesterday.