Friday, February 27, 2009

Media’s Effect on Audiences

Posted on behalf of Lisa Barry:

The media seems to have a profound effect on audiences as we have seen through our discussions of framing and agenda-setting. What we haven’t discussed is how an audience "uses" media. Society believes that we are less informed if we are watching Entertainment Tonight rather than our nightly news, but is that true? Can audiences just be more aware of certain aspects of the news (such as entertainment) rather than “hard” news and still be considered knowledgeable?

On this topic, Baran and Davis state, “Many of us might argue that most current-day news media transmit “infotainment” that actually serves a negative function in that it produces ill-educated citizens or citizens who actually become less involved in the political process…”(236). I believe that a great counterexample to this argument would be such shows as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

MSNBC wrote a great piece on this debate concerning The Daily Show and FOX News. Bill O’Reilly stated that only “stoned slackers” watch Stewart and this is a disservice to our country because these “slackers” are eligible to vote, and can inevitably cause great harm. However, it turns out that Stewart's audience is statistically of higher education, a possibly great rebuttal from Stewart and Comedy Central.

Do you agree with O’Reilly in his argument that news-comedy shows are not showing the facts of news stories, and ultimately making their audience unaware and less educated? I do not watch Jon Stewart personally, and have only seen clips of his show but I believe that even if he is putting a comedic spin on world news, isn’t his audience at least getting a general idea of what is going on because he is poking fun at it?

Television seems to be an escape from reality for most people as McQuail states, “Television can thus from time to time, but not particularly often, meet a need for escapism and a need to get away from the people around” (360). Do we watch entertainment shows to get away from our day to day routines, and do shows such as The Daily Show helps us in this endeavor because our nightly news is just too depressing?


  1. I think it depends on the person, to say if they are knowledgeable or not, because they watch Entertainment tonight rather than the daily news. If a person is only interested in celebrity gossip and never educated themselves about what is going on in the world besides celeb gossip, then they aren’t really knowledgeable about current events involving politics or the economy or world. Lisa’s example of a show that does both (The Daily Show) is really good because it combines news and entertainment into one show, so a person can be educated while being entertained.
    Adding a comedic twist to something such as the news, in particular world news, would make it more appealing to people uninterested normally. In Baran and Davis, they used a description from Scramm of “fraction of selection” which is “how individuals make media and content choices based on expectation of reward and effort required”. (232) This means that when an individual is deciding what to watch on television or how they would like to find out the news, one usually will go for the option that requires the least amount of work and the option they’d get the most out of doing the least amount of work. I think this might be a reason why people use The Daily Show for a news outlet. It’s entertaining but at the same time it’s giving you the news, and I think that if someone sees something on this show and they are that interested in it, that they would go and look up more about it afterwards. In response to the question that Lisa asked before about shows like The Daily Show helping us get our news, I think this is true. Many people do not want to come home after a day of work to sit and here how this many people died in this country on the regular news. They might want to relax and laugh while hearing the news.
    With this, I also do not agree with O’Reilly and his comments about all viewers of these comedy news shows as being “stoner slackers” and that everyone is uneducated and unaware. Television shows that combine comedy and the news usually attract more people to the news, and that is good because these might be people who didn’t really care about learning what is going on around them before. I don’t watch any of these shows but like Lisa I have seen clips and I can see how they are a good news source.

  2. Yeah, I totally disagree with Bill O’ Reilly comments about The Daily Show. I do not watch the show personally but it seems to give more real news than the major news station. Just because the Daily show uses a comedic spin to tell the news does not make it less important. The article on MSNBC “Stoned slackers watch John Stewart?” Then under the head line it reads “ Bill O’Reilly's viewers are actually less educated than Stewart's” so obviously by the headline the daily show audience is smarter than Bill O’ Reilly’s. Most news stations today report less on the hard news story. They seem to have more entertainment fillers. I believe that television is way for audience to get away from the daily stresses of everyday life. Yes, I believe television is sometimes used as a way for people to escape from there reality. In chapter 9 the fraction of selection theory states “how individuals make media and content choices based on expectation of reward and effort required” (Baran & Davis 232). I think fraction of selection theory is another reason why people watch entertainment shows. Most audience participator is not going to watch a show unless they can get some kind of reward out of it. I agree with Schramm point of view that people weigh the level of reward they expect from a given medium against how much effort they must put into secure the reward (Baran& Davis 232). An individual does not have to put any effort to watch television .The only effort is using the remote control to turn on the TV. I know personally I watch television shows for my enjoyment. Who doesn’t watch television for their enjoyment? Most media consumers watch television for it rewards or as a way to escape the reality of their life.

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  4. I think people who only view Entertainment Tonight and do not watch any type of news program are probably less informed about issues in the “hard” news because Entertainment Tonight focuses on celebrity news, not on politics or world news. However, there is absolutely no question in my mind that people who view only “infotainment”, as Baran and Davis would put it, are just as knowledgeable as people who only view “hard” news. Though Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are noticeably bias and put a comedic spin on the news when reporting, they still report on significant issues and their basic proponents. I am a huge fan and avid watcher of both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, and there are some weeks where I realize that the only news I have consumed has been from these shows. When speaking to other people about news, I do not feel that I am any less informed than people who do not watch these shows and only watch “hard” news. In fact, sometimes I feel I know more about an issue than my friends do because I watch Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

    Furthermore, I think it takes it a person who is already somewhat knowledgeable about current events to understand the jokes that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert make during their programs. The “stoned slacker” described by Bill O’Reilly would definitely not appreciate the show as much as someone who is constantly updating themselves on current issues.

    Also, if Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert present an issue that I have not heard or read a lot about, their report encourages me to conduct further research on the topic. I feel like other people would most likely do the same thing. It is in this way that I think Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are helping the public rather than hurting them. Therefore, Bill O’Reilly’s argument about news-comedy shows making people less educated is certainly not valid.

    Also, addressing the issue of the nightly news being too depressing, I think Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert do make news seem less depressing without “dumbing down” the issues or leaving out the important facts. I think Stewart and Colbert put a comedic spin on issues because it makes a situation seem less daunting, which does serve as a kind of an escape for people who are sick and tired of hearing about all of the threats and issues facing our society today. The Daily Show and The Colbert Report aim to serve the public by presenting the news in a humorous way because it offers hope for people who may consider other news programs depressing. In fact, I think Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are motivated by the public to present the news in this way. In our text, Baran and Davis quote Mark Levy and Sven Windahls’ views on media. They write, “…that media use is motivated by needs and goals that are defined by audience members themselves, and that active participation in the communication process may facilitate, limit, or otherwise influence the gratifications and effects associated with exposure” (Baran & Davis 238). I think the issues brought up by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are reflective of the public’s wants and concerns. The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are being motivated by the public’s concern with current conflicts, and want to satisfy the public. The shows are somewhat “defined by audience members” in that Stewart and Colbert seek to address the news stories that they believe are the most important to people, and want to help them understand the issues without becoming depressed or fearful about them.

  5. Personally, I think that Bill O’Reilly’s comments are stupid. I’ve done a couple of papers about The Daily Show, and its been proven that the people that watch this show, as well as Stephen Colbert, are more informed about world news that other people. So calling the viewers “stoned slackers” is not only unfair, it’s incorrect. While I’m sure some of the audience would fit into this category, generalizing them is grossly inaccurate. These shows also have a larger audience than regular news programs, especially among the younger age brackets. And I think that the reason for that relates back to the fraction of selection theory, which states “how individuals make media and content choices based on expectation of reward and effort required” [B&D 232]. It requires little or no effort to turn on Comedy Central at eleven o’clock, as opposed to flipping through websites to find news, or having to read a newspaper. And you also know that you’re going to be rewarded, because at some point you’ll be laughing. I think that sometimes these shows get a bad rap, but they really do inform people of what’s going on in the world. Like someone else mentioned, you need to have at least some idea of the news in order to understand what the heck Jon Stewart is talking about. So they do help in some way.