Jon Stewart may joke about how his lead-in is puppets, but anyone who has ever watched "The Daily Show" knows it's a misnomer to call it fake news: It may be a fake newscast, but the news it reports and comments upon night after night is all too real. And now it's official: A study by the University of Indiana has found that "The Daily Show" is as substantive as network news.
This, as said above, is not news to anyone who watches the show; on the contrary, its viewers are highly educted and the quality roster of guests (John McCain, Helen Thomas, Thomas Ricks, Ken Mehlman, Pervez Musharraf and, okay, Samuel L. Jackson) makes it compelling viewing for news junkies as well. Indeed, in addition to covering the latest news, they often seize on less-reported news, with the added bonus of providing context to ongoing issues (nary a show goes by when Stewart does not make reference to the "Mess O'Potamia" in Iraq; also, they are all over the Foley scandal, obviously, but have frankly given more airtime this week to the recent rollback of detainee habeas corpus rights than I have seen elsewhere).
There's no question that the coverage is substantive (even, if as study-leader Professor Julia R. Fox cautions, both network news programs and "The Daily Show" are ratings-driven). But what the study does not mention is not only how the Daily Show now makes news (Stewart's Musharraf interview was picked up everywhere), but it often picks up news that has gone virtually unreported anywhere else, liike this shocking C-SPAN footage of House Judiciary Committee chair James Sensenbrenner cutting short a Congressional hearing on the Patriot Act in June 2005, actually turning off the microphone mid-sentence, gavelling out of the meeting and leaving the room. It was a stunning &mdash stunning — abuse of power, and the MSM missed it (per Google, with a paltry234 hits). That's not only real news, it's real news that everyone else missed. :How's that for substance?