MTV, Comedy Central and Late night shows

Who would ever think that Comedy Central would be a source of news for the younger generation? With all the showings of Super Troopers and the comedic roasts of celebrities, where would the network ever relevantly fit information about the political atmosphere of America? The funny thing is that it has, and not only that, it has become a household name for young people looking for news.

Other examples in the media of popular shows among young people include The Colbert Report and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Both of these incredibly popular programs are seen as satirical portrayals of the political and economic state of America, catering to the younger, so-called “MTV generation” of television junkies. The point of such programs is to poke fun at how serious network news programs such as FOX and CNN can be, and to give audiences a lighter, more comedic approach to the news that they want to hear.

Now more than ever, students are focusing on what they see portrayed in the media to inform them politically rather than searching for truth and accuracy themselves.

In the political science department at Eastern, Dr. Bret Kincaid has his students take Internet surveys related to their knowledge of recent news, American government and the presidential candidates for the upcoming election.

“Students as a group are not only lacking in news and political knowledge, according to the web surveys they took,” Kincaid said, “as a group, my students know less than their counterparts in the rest of the country, that is people outside of Eastern who are of the same age are more knowledgeable about news and politics.”

It makes sense that students would draw their political beliefs from charismatic entertainers such as Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart. In an article titled “Young get news from Comedy Central,” CNN reported that, “a poll released earlier this year by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 21 percent of people age 18 to 29 cited The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live as a place where they regularly learned presidential campaign news. By contrast, 23 percent of the young people mentioned ABC, CBS or NBC’s nightly news broadcasts as a source.”

The satirical nature of these programs and the information they relay to viewers is at first glance entertaining but has a tendency to pull down the content of the messages, lending a cynical and sometimes negative spin to the facts about politics and political agendas.

Kevin Maness, a communications professor at Eastern, believes that these programs should just been seen as comic relief, not as reliable information. He believes that the media producers give us what they believe we want to watch.

“It’s not always the real you that is influencing the media but rather producers’ views of you,” Maness said.

As Christians we have to be careful about what we let influence us and who we believe when it comes to certain political issues and standpoints. Especially in regard to the 2008 election, there are many important issues to consider, and in order to do so, students need to analyze what they believe and what constructs these beliefs.

According to Maness, a good way for students to find accurate and relevant political information is to find an organization that you align with and examine where they stand on certain candidates and issues. We often tend to look for the “Christian” candidate or the person who is most in line with our religious beliefs and morals.

“What I would say – although it doesn’t come up as much in my classes – is not to be a sucker Christian. Judge people by their political actions not just their words,” Maness said.

These Comedy Central shows and media constructions of politics aren’t necessarily all bad, but they can suggest ideas that aren’t necessarily accurate or relevant. It is important to watch these shows with a critical eye, making sure that we aren’t just seeing the comedy but the message behind the laughs, stellar ratings and the commentary.

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