Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Media/2: When Fake News Is Better Than Real

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Media/2: When Fake News Is Better Than Real

Article excerpt

We know that American youth, like youth across the western world, switches off when the TV news comes on. So what are the sources of their news? Comedy programmes showing "fake news", according to a new study.

The Pew Research Centre for the People and the Press says that such programmes "are beginning to rival mainstream news outlets within this generation". On the Comedy Central cable TV channel, for example, The Daily Show has the stand-up comedian Jon Stewart manning the anchor desk and interspersing the day's headlines with satirical commentary. Stewart covered George Bush's State of the Union address last month by pointing to the promises--from billions for fighting Aids to hydrogen-powered cars--that were included in previous speeches by Bush but never mentioned again, let alone implemented.

Since becoming the face of The Daily Show in 1999, Stewart has tripled the programme's viewing figures, reaching more than a million mostly young people on an average night. Newsweek magazine calls it the "coolest pit stop on television". Everyone from Hillary Rodham Clinton to the Bush administration Svengali Richard Perle has spent time on Stewart's interview couch.

Senator John Edwards even announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination live on The Daily Show last autumn. Stewart, with deadpan gravity, interrupted Edwards to remind him that since this was a fake news show, the announcement "might not count". When another US senator, Joseph Biden, recently appeared, he confided that his daughter pays no heed when he appears on mainstream news programmes such as Meet the Press. …

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