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  • 1. 1 The Blurring BoundariesRunning Head: THE BLURRING BOUNDARIES BETWEEN NEWS AND ENTERTAINMENTThe Blurring Boundaries By Andrew CicconeBaruch CollegeCOM 9505 Fall 2008Media Analysis Professor William Boddy

2. 2The Blurring Boundaries The Blurring Boundaries between News and EntertainmentAbstractThe history of every art form has critical periods when that form strives towards effects that caneasily achieved if the technical norm is changed, that is to say, in a new art form (Enzenberger,1970). This paper examines the dynamics of news presented in a satirical comedic frame andconsiders if this new form of fictive entertainment is shaped by our postmodern world. Networknews is not the only network program to conceal its symbolic fabrications in naturalistic film.Most movies, television series, and even advertisements present themselves as an unmediatedreality. Network news programs are constructed not only from shared referential frames andtheir common symbiotic relationship to established power, but also from the paradigmatic andsyntagmatic operations that manufacture the news as narrative discourse (Stam, 2000). Thefocus of this paper considers Jon Stewarts, The Daily Show impact on blurring the boundariesbetween news and entertainment shaped by societal forces.Dramatization of the NewsTelevision news promotes a narcissistic relationship with an imaginary other. It infantilizes inthe sense that the young child perceives everything in relation to itself; everything is ordered tothe measure of its ego. Television, if it is not received critically, fosters a kind of confusion ofpronouns: between I the spectator and He or She the newscaster, as engaged in a mutuallyflattering dialogue. This fictive We can then speak warmly about Ourselves and coldlyabout whoever is posited as Them. This misrecognition of mirror-like images has profound 3. 3The Blurring Boundariespolitical consequences (Stam, 2000). News stories are stories, as well as news. Good narrativesembody the root elements of a human drama. In a real sense reason disappears as actors flitacross the journalistic stage, perform and hurriedly disappear (Goldberg & Elliot, 1979). Newsis about the actions of individuals, not corporate entities, thus individual authority rather thanexertion of entrenched power is seen to the mover of events. More so than ever to keepaudiences interested, the never-ending cycle of immediacy feeds upon itself. A story that lacksdrama is perceived to have no real news value. The pressure to produce sensationalist elementsinto news stories is a constant and ever increasing necessity. News and broadcast news inparticular, is the last refuge of the great man theory of history (Stam, 2000).Mindich (2005) considers the emotional indifference that many journalists adopt in their pursuitof balanced reporting and which he believes has helped to privilege entertainment over newsmedia in the minds of young audiences. Farai Chideya, a long-time journalist interviewed byMindich, suggests, the objectivity of news is too often pitted against the humanity of otherparadigms; such humanity, or passion, should also be permitted to permeate the boundaries ofnews (2005: 48).The Post Modern News ViewerSeveral studies have argued that entertainment television and films are likely contributors topolitical attitudes (Adams et al. 1985; Feldman and Sigelman 1985; Lenart and McGraw 1989)and socialization (Ball- Rokeach et al. 1981). Media critic Jon Katz writes (1993), for theyoung, culture is politics, personal expression and entertainment all fused together, often thebiggest and most important story in their lives (1993: 130). Barnhurst (1998) offer evidence for 4. 4 The Blurring Boundariesan understanding of political life among young people that is primarily discursive. Barnhurst(1998) finds that news is but one of many genres, especially entertainment media, they use tomake sense of the political world. Understanding an issue comes scattershot from pop songs, TVcommercials [and] documentary films (1998: 216).Calavita (2004), reports that young adults appreciate the sarcasm, irony, parody, and satirepervasive in popular culture. Specifically, Calavita cited comedy-news hybrids like PoliticallyIncorrect, Dennis Miller Live, and The Daily Show as pop culture favorites and spoke of beingsimultaneously amused and informed by them. Other researchers have attempted to make senseof how young people interpret and respond to traditional forms of news. Buckingham (2000)found a shared lack of enthusiasm for television news in general, which was rejected for beingboring, repetitive, and lacking in entertainment value. While young people do want to beentertained, they also want to be informed. They resist the trivialization and tabloidization ofnews, rendering what he calls add[ing] sugar to the pill an inadequate solution for engaging ayounger news audience (2000: 211).The basic assumption that the television audience is active rather than passive; and thatwatching television is a social rather than individual practice is currently accepted in bothperspectives . . . that texts can generate multiple meanings, and that the text/reader relationshiptakes the form of negotiations, is not in itself a significant condition for the declaredconvergence. We should not loose sight of the fact that any call for convergence itself is not aninnocent gesture it invariably involves a selection process in which certain issues and themesare highlighted and others suppressed. The aim of cultural studies is to arrive at a more 5. 5The Blurring Boundarieshistorized insight into the ways in which audience activity is related to social and politicalstructures and processes (Ang, 1989).Young audiences have consistently expressed disdain for the artifice and aloofness thataccompany so-called objective reporting (Mindich, 2005). David Morley (1983) argues that thetelevision audience must be seen neither as undifferentiated mass nor as autonomous individuals.Instead, it comprises clusters of socially structured individual readers, where readings will beframed by shared cultural formations and practices. These formations are in turn determined bythe position of the individual reader in the class structure. The viewers decide text in differentways and sometimes even give oppositional meanings to it; this Ang (1989) argues should not beconceived as audience freedom but as a moment in the central struggle, an ongoing struggleover meaning and pleasure, which is central to the fabric of everyday life. New viewers of thenews are pre-disposed towards a more irreverent interpretation of events as they unfold, in theirview of reality.While Letterman and Leno viewers are more likely to be watching local news than other late-night viewers, Daily Show viewers are not. Instead, after controlling for political anddemographic variables, Daily Show viewers are more likely to be watching cable news andlistening to National Public Radio. Whether they are watching network news, local news, cablenews, news radio, and late night comedy. Stewarts viewers do not appear to be relying solelyon their preferred late-night program for their daily dose of news. Interestingly, it may that theviewers of The Daily Show follow a pattern more akin to traditional political informationconsumption than to consumption of purely entertainment-oriented media. 6. 6The Blurring BoundariesChallenging Conventional Notions of NewsThe Daily Show airs on cables Comedy Central in the late night time slot during the week for apre-broadcast half-hour. The nightly news parody offers satiric interpretations of politics andcurrent events, hosted by faux anchor Jon Stewart. He mocks those who both make and reportthe news. The program features a cast of correspondents, who are variously introduced as theshows senior analysts (e.g. senior political analyst, senior environmental analyst, etc.). Eachepisode includes an interview with a celebrity guest culled from the entertainment, political, ormedia worlds. Having entertainment celebrities and serious journalists creates an implied realityto the program. To Jon Stewart, the idea that young people are tuning in to his program toactually get the news is improbable. Stewart argues that it would be impossible for viewers tolearn the news from his program: The truth is I know [most kids] are not [getting their news from us] because you cantbecause we just dont do it. Theres not enough news to get. . . . If [kids] came to our show without knowledge, it wouldnt make any sense to them.In 2000, The Daily Show won the prestigious Peabody Award for its election coverage, and in2003 the show garnered five Emmy Awards. All nine Democratic presidential candidates visitedThe Daily Show during the 2004 primary season, in fact The Daily Show was invited to coverboth the 2004 Democratic and Republican National Conventions. As Stewartss show is takenmore and more seriously as a news source, it also increasingly blurs the distinction between newsand entertainment, challenging the historical conventions between serious news and comedicentertainment. 7. 7 The Blurring BoundariesGoldberg and Elliot (1979) argue news ideology represents the integrated picture of reality,which it provides, is a picture, which legitimizes the interests of the powerful in society. It doesthis by omitting two key elements in the world it portrays. This first is social process:newsreaders invisible in the process of change, presenting the world as a succession of singleevents. The second absent dimension is social power: news offers us politics in the form ofrituals of political office and omits consideration of economic power altogether. The result is apicture of the world that appears both unchanging and unchangeable.The Daily Show straddles these news and comedy genres, employing comedy and satire to mockthe conventions of mainstream news and the politics it reports. The program has, according tothe