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Study: Daily Show as 'substantive' as network news

Published: Thursday October 5, 2006

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Comedy Central's Daily Show is as "substantive" as network news, according to a new study to be published next summer, RAW STORY has found.

"No Joke: A Comparison of Substance in The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Broadcast Network Television Coverage of the 2004 Presidential Election Campaign," was compiled by Julia R. Fox, an assistant professor of telecommunications at Indiana University, and two graduate students who compared broadcast nightly newscasts on July 26-30, Aug. 30-31 and Sept. 1-3 in 2004 to episodes of The Daily Show from the same period. The study will be published next summer by the Journal of Broadcast and Electronic Media.

"It is clearly a humor show, first and foremost," Fox said in a press release. "But there is some substance on there, and in some cases, like John Edwards announcing his candidacy, the news is made on the show."

"You have real newsmakers coming on, and yes, sometimes the banter and questions get a little silly, but there is also substantive dialogue going on It's a legitimate source of news," Fox added.

Although, "a second-by-second analysis of The Daily Show's audio and visual content found considerably more humor than substance," the study also "found considerably more hype than substance in broadcast newscasts." Fox characterized "references to polls, political endorsements and photo opportunities" as examples of such "hype."

"Interestingly, the average amounts of video and audio substance in the broadcast network news stories were not significantly different than the average amounts of visual and audio substance in The Daily Show with Jon Stewart stories about the presidential election," Fox writes in the study.

Fox said of The Daily Show, "We've been wringing our hands for decades that the networks aren't doing enough substance in the political coverage, so is it any real surprise that it's just as substantive?"

"Our findings should allay at least some of the concerns about the growing reliance on this non-traditional source of political information, as it is just as substantive as the source that Americans have relied upon for decades," Fox said.

All in all, Fox concludes that "we should probably be concerned about both of those sources, because neither one is particularly substantive."

"It's a bottom-line industry and ratings-driven," said Fox. "We live in an 'infotainment' society, and there certainly are a number of other sources available."