Increasing political knowledge?

I think I am a typical passive viewer in this “less politically interested” population labeled by Xenos and Becker. Even in my home country, political news was not my priority, no matter for watching television or browsing websites online.

Xenos and Becker introduce an alternative way to be more involved in political news. For me, it’s the first time to watch The Daily Show. The first episode is talking about “CNN fires Rick Sanchez, and Sam Harris discusses science’s role in determining morality.” To be frank this task is more difficult than reading political blogs in that there’s no caption, let alone the culture differences, which make me feel so odd when I hear lots of laughter. I watched this episode twice but still cannot fully understand the core idea. Therefore, searching more information via Google is a must. Thanks to Google news, I learn more about this kick-out issue. CNN ex-anchor Rick Sanchez who was born in Cuba indicated that current US media was controlled by Jewish like Stewart, however, minorities was oppressed. Also Sanchez labeled Stewart as “bigot”, which was a serious case, following was result of getting unemployed from CNN. The same to Rahm Emanuel and the book The Moral Landscape.

The second one was even more difficult to understand. Undoubtedly, again, results from Google news shoulder the responsibility of complementarities. Therefore, for me, searching relative news content from other media cannot be only explained as internal political interests are activated. After all, being curious about unknown or unfamiliar things is just usual and pervasive.

Discussed by Baum, the relationship between political comedy consuming and increasing political knowledge reminds me of social learning theory and cultivation theory. The former suggests that audiences learn about real-life issues from media content while the latter explicates that audience’s perception of certain image is cultivated by passively receiving media content.

Looking back to my experience with The Daily Show and Google news, I don’t think I am representative in that seeking factual information from other media is not due to the stimulus is shown. In fact, I was kind of forced to do more research online mainly because I didn’t understand the political comedy, but the subjects in Xenos and Becker’s study could know political world better.

In my opinion, when people are exposed to hard news, they believe in what they see and hear since the content are presented by official, reliable media organizations in a traditional way. Although hard news doesn’t have the power as “magic bullet”, it is more convincing. However, if it is replaced by soft news like political comedy, I think it is natural for people to seek extra factual information to help them further develop relative stories, or maybe confirm their thoughts. In other words, if the subjects were exposed to other stimulus, they might look for pertinent materials as well. Thus I agree with Xenos and Becker’s conclusion that what Jon Stewart offers is “largely as a supplement to, rather than a replacement for, traditional hard news” (p. 319).


~ by luckymaggie on October 10, 2010.

12 Responses to “Increasing political knowledge?”

  1. While I agree with what Baum says mostly, I feel like he is arguing something that is universally known. He kind of widens the definition of “learning” to fit the idea of enhanced political knowledge into soft news consumers. I mean isn’t that a sure thing we all “learn” something when see something. HOWEVER, I used to be interested in Taiwanese politics, but now i no longer am, not to mention politics in the U.S. I thought the shows were a waste of time for someone like me who is not interested in politics at all plus it wasn’t THAT funny to me. So certainly I wouldn’t be searching for more information about it on the internet. I sort of wonder what I learned from the soft news under Baum’s definition of “learning.”

  2. I would be interested to see if you would have researched what you heard as much had there not been a cultural difference. You needed to research the ideas presented in order to understand the humor being made, but would you have still looked to hard news to better understand the topics had you gotten the jokes immediately? I know that as a more than occasional viewer of both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, I always like to look up the topics they are talking about, mostly cause I have to confirm that politics are really as stupid as these shows make them out to be. More often than not, they are, haha. I agree, with your assessment, however, that the authors were right in referring to soft news as a supplement to hard news.

  3. When I was in China, I did not pay much attention to political news. Maybe because there wasn’t much to see (political news are mostly propaganda.) However, after a year in the US, I found I spent more time reading news about China. Not political news in particular, but they definitely took up a large percentage. So my culture is a very important driving force for me to read political news. Despite the cultural difference, I think for less politically interested views, if they choose to watch a political comedy, they have a certain amount of interests in that topic already. If they choose to pursue information regarding that topic from other media later on, there could be several explanations. 1. The information provided in political comedy is not enough for their interest in that topic 2. Political comedy greatly increases their interest in that topic.

  4. I agree with you that political comedy is very culture-imbeded. It is difficult for non-natives to follow because a lack of not only political knowledge, but also cultural understanding. So I wonder when the jokes in such shows become hard to undrstand,are they still a gateway? Or they are just hard to chew as the hard news?

    • That’s why I prefer hard news… It’s not because we expect something more than entertaining content, but what we need are facts, which are mainly offered by hard news… If we seek for leisure time activity, as least for me, I won’t choose political comedy…

  5. Comments for blog 7

  6. You present an interesting point that hadn’t dawned on me but was apparent in class today when we were talking about Sarah Palin. Based on the facial expressions of the international students, while the class was amused you all didn’t know what we were talking about. So The Daily Show wasn’t amusing to you because you didn’t have the political knowledge to “get the joke”. It would be interesting to see a research project that examines cultural differences in gaining political knowledge and methods for gaining knowledge. Obviously, the Gateway effect wasn’t a factor even though you did search for more information, it was for clarification and not because you were primed to seek this content.

  7. I agreet that soft news is a supplement to hard news. People may be interested in certain issues which are illustrated in some hilarious ways and then go to find other sources in order to know the issue batter (if they still remember after changing channel). However, I am still curious if soft news can really create deep and long-term influence to those people who are not interested in politics. Take myself for example, I would not watch the channel in which is broadcasting political-relevant show in the US since I am not insterested in it. People gaining some knowledge from soft news is better than resisting to watch hard news. But I doubt the influence range.

  8. You pointed out that people tend to believe the “hard news”, for it is mostly presented by reliable media. This made me think of Taiwan’s present media and journalist environment. Nowadays, Taiwanese tend to think media have lower credibility compare to before, because most of the news in Taiwan are now becoming “soft news” or even “dramatized.” By turning on the TV in Taiwan, You can see a lot of wording and editing that appear in the news which were consider “informal” in old days. Moreover, you might even have a chance to hear dramatic background music when the reporter is broadcasting the tragic news such as earthquake in Haiti. A Chinese friend once come to Taiwan to meet me and she asked me that “why is every news sound like a drama in Taiwan?” This led me to think about the in-class discussion that we had on Wednesday about 24-hour news. I think I will agree that the trend of 24-hour news might influence how the news is told, for the TV station need to maintain the audience ratings.

  9. I can’t get the point from those Daily Shows. I think that I am also the one who don’t seek to gain facual political knowledge but for entertainment. But I have to admit that we still can obtain knowledge which not so serious, for example the news or learn oipnion from all aspect of political events.

  10. I’m glad you had a new experience watching The Daily Show. I understand what you mean about your need to search for contextual information. Sometimes the jokes on the show are very funny even if you don;t know the context — sometimes you can get enough of the context from the show itself.

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