Students ditch MSM news for comedy shows with fresh take on politics


Zoe Pleasure

They spin the news, but still deliver it. They make fun of mainstream media (MSM) anchors, but defend them when they are being ridiculed. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert present a lighthearted alternative to traditional news, and more and more young people are getting most if not all of their news from them.

According to “The State of Online Video,” a report released in June by the Pew Internet and American Life project, 93 percent of Internet users in 2009 who were aged 18 to 29 said they watched comedy videos online and only 56 percent reported watching news videos.

While mainstream news, such as Fox News and MSNBC, relay the news to the people, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report look at the bias behind the news.

In a segment on Sept. 22 titled “West Bank Story,” a play on “West Side Story,” Jon Stewart said asked Palestine jokingly “have you thought about a spelling change?” A map of Palestine flashed behind him with the spelling of Palestine changed to Palestein. Stein is a common ending of a Jewish last name;  Stewart was suggesting that Palestine has to appeal to Israel to gain statehood.

When times are rough, humor news programs show the light in the dark. Colbert and Stewart highlight the comical and confusing in the complicated world of news programs and politics.

Urban students and teachers interviewed for this story all said they watched and enjoyed Stewart more than Colbert. Many remarked upon Stewart’s ability to embrace opinions outside of his own liberal viewpoint.

Elena Goldstein (’12) enjoys the fact that “(Stewart) is definitely liberal and has his liberal edge … but at the same time he is not afraid to question certain liberal policies or defend Republican politicians when they need to be defended.”

Stewart recently won his 9th consecutive Emmy for his talk show, which he has been hosting since 1999. He moved from MTV to Comedy Central in 1999. In an interview in the September issue of Rolling Stone, he compared his show to the more traditional news shows of Fox News.

“We are both reactions to the news and to government,” Stewart said. “We’re both expressions of dissatisfaction.”

Stewart is unafraid to voice his opinion even if it may not agree with his liberal label. Stewart’s opinion of Obama has become more critical as his approval rating has dropped. Goldstein says that Stewart reflects public opinion better than many news anchors and is better able to sympathize with both sides of an argument. Students say they identify with the confusion that Stewart regularly expresses regarding the state of U.S. politics.

Laura Veuve, Urban math teacher, said that she enjoyed Stewart’s interview in July with Pervez Musharraf, the former president of Pakistan. She appreciated how Stewart “did a nice job handling such an important figure tactfully and respectfully, while pushing him to give more than just sound bites, and doing it with humor.”

Veuve watches Stewart and Colbert because “it’s funny and entertaining, but also because I feel like I get actual news information from them.  They do a reasonable job showing the ridiculousness of extreme views on either side of an issue.”

Meanwhile, Colbert has created a caricature of a conservative news pundit, condemning the excessively reactive nature he sees in the conservative media. His show is popular with Urban students who agree with his portrayal of the right-wing media.

In order to show the complicated system of how presidential candidates garner campaign money, Colbert created the Rick Parry SuperPac, a political action committee which is organized to elect political candidates. With the race for the Republican candidate heating up, more candidates have been looking to such PACs for financial support for their campaigns.

However, the Rick Parry SuperPac collects money for commercials and posters for the incorrectly spelled Rick Parry, a parody of the candidate Rick Perry. The fund garnered interest during the Iowa straw poll in August.

Students at Urban watch “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report” to escape the mundane reporting of corporate news stations. Sometimes regular news stations can be an overload of depressing news, but humor news provides a way to see the comedy in what’s depressing.

Hyacinth Parker (’13) said she “really only watches (Stewart and Colbert)” and otherwise “gets depressed” about the state of the world.

Watch “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” every Monday through Thursday at 11 p.m. and “The Colbert Report” at 11:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday on Comedy Central.

Jon Stewart, host of "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central, attracts young viewers with a blend of humor and pointed analysis. Research shows an increasing number of teens are getting their news from such shows.