The Colbert Report Informs More Viewers Than OthersBy: Brian Powell - June 5, 2014
When Stephen Colbert started The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, he stated that his goal was to “feel the news” at his audience, purporting that anyone could read the news to them. According to a new study released by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, Colbert’s show has done much more than his initial process.
Upon analyzing the results of a telephone survey conducted with 1,232 adults from December 13, 2012 to December 23, 2012, The Colbert Report proved to be the most informative media outlet when it came to educating the people about political campaign financing.
“It’s the first study actually showing that Colbert is doing a better job than other news sources at teaching people about campaign financing,” stated Bruce Hardy, the lead author of the study. “Consistently, we found that Colbert did better than every other news source we included in our model.”
Why was Colbert so effective in informing his audience, you ask? “There were two reasons. First was the narrative structure. He walked us through creating a super PAC and every episode was a continuation of that story. And second was the use of humor and satire,” explained Hardy.
The specific segments the research study highlights were aired following the 2010 Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case in which it was decided that money is a form of free speech and that it could not restrict campaign contributions from corporations.
In order to explore the extent of such a ruling, Colbert decided to form his own Super PAC (with motto “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow), along with a shell corporation from which Colbert could receive anonymous donations and then transfer those funds to his Super PAC, acting as if the corporation was actually the source of the money.
“What’s the difference between that and money laundering?” Colbert asked Federal Election Chairman Trevor Potter. “It’s hard to say,” Potter responded.
And for all of you doubters out there, this study is consistent with several other studies which have touted the positive effects of “soft news”, the most popular of such studies being one released in 2012 which reported that viewers who watched The Daily Show with Jon Stewart were more knowledgeable about current affairs than those who watched any other form of news media, along with those who read or listened to NPR and Sunday morning talk shows.
So how did Stephen Colbert take the news that he was more informative than all the other media outlets on television? Exactly as one would expect him to – as a challenge.
“Clearly, I must work harder at informing you less. And to do that, I humbly bow myself before the masters,” stated Colbert before showing a montage of poor news reports.
“Wow. The bar of lowness has been set very high.”
Let’s hope that a dearth of knowledge does not occur after Colbert moves to his new spot at the The Late Show in 2015.
Image via YouTube