The Dish on "Daily"
First things first: I love "The Daily Show." And, truth be told, I love "The Colbert Report" even more. They're addictive, clever and the bleeding edge of political satire.
All that being said, it's time to set the record straight on Jon Stewart's night-time fun house.
For years, the "Daily Show" has been put forward as The New Information Source. It's a sexy and fun topic, and there are actual data supporting the claim. This past weekend, Gail Shister – the artist formerly known as a top-notch media writer until her paper reassigned her – wrote the most recent story looking at how viewers ages 18-29 increasingly are using "The Daily Show" as their news outlet of choice. This is a tempting and fun story to write since the tell-tale numbers are provided by the unimpeachable Pew Research Center for People and the Press. And the numbers don't lie. She writes:
Politically, The Daily Show is no joke.In addition the 2004 study – we'll call it Exhibit A -- she also tosses in a stat from this year's study (Exhibit B), showing 13 percent of "Gen Nexters" report watching the show regularly.
According to a Pew Research Center study, one in five 18-to-29-year-olds reported regularly getting news about the 2004 presidential campaign from late-night comedy shows - up 12 percent over the 2000 race.
There you have it. "The Daily Show" = source of news for young people, who feel disenchanted with the mainstream media. Case closed, right?
Not so fast. If you take a closer look at Exhibit A, there is also a table where the Pew people quizzed participants on "Where They Learn and How Much They Know." As a part of the poll, which was conducted in late 2003 when people were more familiar with the Democratic candidates, people were asked which of them was a former House Majority Leader (Dick Gephardt) and which was a former Army General (Wesley Clark). And in a field of 18 genres of news outlets – from NPR to Sunday talk shows to cable TV — the participants who said they get their news from comedy shows such as "The Daily Show" or "Saturday Night Live" scored next to last.
Shister closes her piece with a "Daily Show" executive comparing the show to a pizza with spinach because, hey, you still get the important stuff, right? But the truth is that the "Daily Show" is actually just a nice dessert or digestif, after a meal of Real News Roughage.