Fake news becoming a real problem

Our generation is finally grown up. We have responsibility, cars, jobs, our own apartments and houses, wives or husbands, and we finally have a say in what happens with our government.

We have the tools to research the most crucial issues of our time. We can analyze and critique the major players of the decision-making process and voice our judgments. So how will we acquire our perceptions? We can watch the most revered journalists, and we can literally speak to our representatives. How about holding city and county meetings to discuss our concerns? Or maybe we can review political statistics displayed on government Web sites.

No. We will watch a comedy show instead.

The Daily Show made its debut in July 1996 with host Craig Kilborn. In 1999 John Stewart took the helm, and since then the show has never looked back. It is a comedy show based on the news, and it has become very influential; often it is seen as the primary source of the news for our generation. Ted Koppel, the former anchor of Nightline, said that too many viewers of our generation get their news from a comedy show. Stewart replied that his viewers watch for comical interpretation of the news, and added that for the viewers to understand the humor of the show’s content one has to be knowledgeable about it in the first place.

UH political science professor Robert Lineberry, however, said this is not so, noting that one doesn’t have to be intimately familiar with the operations of a hospital to understand a hospital-based comedy.

Considering the influence The Daily Show is gaining, we should ask why The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and similar shows are gaining so much power. Lineberry gives two reasons. First, these shows have never existed before. We’ve never had shows that are based on political slip-ups and political criticisms based on a punch line. Second, they’re funny. No one can deny that watching President George W. Bush falter again with Stewart to guide our laughter is going to make us laugh. Lineberry, who watches The Daily Show, says these shows give a very cynical view of the events they are covering, but Lineberry also adds that the show is not a healthy way to get our news.

Let’s look again at influence. The Daily Show has 1.4 million viewers nightly and The Colbert Report boasts similar figures. These shows express cynical views of current events to the generation that is – let’s admit it – still relatively pliable with its beliefs and views. Do these shows have an obligation to express problem-solving or true critique? The Daily Show, or the concept of, it is creating a new culture of news intake, and The Colbert Report, can’t be denied its emerging status of power. Do these shows have any responsibility to laying out any form of relevance with their material? Yes. However, "real news" doesn’t have to be included in their show. I watch The Daily Show, and I would be turned off if "real news" began to creep its way into the script.

The show should expand its grasp into other areas than just political slip-ups. Surely Stewart, who writes some of the material, and the other writers can find a way to include relevant events and make them hilarious as I have no doubt they can.

Ultimately, the obligation is for us as viewers and the next generation to know what is going on out there. We can’t be one sided. The Daily Show and Colbert Report, as hilarious as they are, are only a fraction of the news. To limit ourselves to a string of shows on Comedy Central and believe we have obtained the relevant information of the day is absurd.

Tarver, a political science sophomore, can be reached via [email protected].

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