Comedy Shows: The Real News Source

If indispensable is defined as so easy to access that you cannot avoid it, online news has not become indispensable in the current American society, a university online journalism instructor said Friday during the fifth annual International Symposium on Online Journalism.

“When I walk on campus at George Mason University, it seems every student is either on a cell phone or has a personal music device such as an MP3 player,” said Steve Klein, coordinator of the electronic journalism program at George Mason University and a member of the panel, “Online News Status- Has it Become Indispensable?”

“Cell phones and music players are indispensable to my students, not online news,” Klein said.

People under the age of 30, the main age group of Klein’s students, is the hardest age group to reach. There has been success, however, through comedy. Klein’s students tend to access their news through pop culture sources such as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Late Night with David Letterman. Traditional news sources like Dan Rather and Peter Jennings have been pushed to the curb.

“News for my students is like cough medicine: with a laugh they can swallow it,” said Klein.

One out of every two people under 30 learns their news from comedy shows, Klein said. Half of those people say that what they learned was new information. Of the 30 and under age group, 21 percent of people admit to getting their election news from comedy shows. These shows are funny and factually correct.

Klein says that even though online news has not reached the point of becoming indispensable, it will eventually get to that point. TV became indispensable when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. A video clip used by Klein illustrated the point that the nation converged on TV when the assassination occurred. When a newspaper reporter would finish a story there would already be new information to add; they could not keep up with live TV.

“It has not reached that point yet with online news, but it will,” said Klein.

ISOJ 2004: Online News Status, from Knight Center on Vimeo.