The Evolution and Importance of News Satire
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The goal of this thesis is to examine how news satire has changed in the United States since the country was founded in 1776. This thesis will show that the connection between news and satire is important because satire can help people understand current eventst give context to complex issues and influence change. When I started this thesis I wanted to learn if satire programs are relevant beyond comedy. During the thesis process I researched the history of satirical plays in an ancient contextt the history and popularity of the editorial cartoon and satirical television programs. I primarily focused on satirical television programs because the platform has been studied for decades so there is a wealth of data and research on the subject as well as interesting new developments. I looked at important satirical programs in US history and present programs that are shaking up the genre. In my research of satire as it appears on television I compared the presentation of news events by journalists to the presentation of the same events by satirists. I specifically compared the Edward Snowden interview as presented by Last Week Tonight host John Oliver to that of NBC News’ reporter Brian Williams to see how the programs were similar and how they diverged. The thesis was based in part on the hypothesis that satire evolved towards advocacy over the years. An example of which being when former Daily Show host Jon Stewart advocated for the passage and later the renewal of the Zadroga Act to fund medical expenses for 9/11 first responders. After completing the research only part of that hypothesis was confirmed. American satire didn’t evolve towards advocacy because there is a long history of satire advocacy in America. American satire has changed a great deal since Benjamin Franklin’s ‘Join or Die’ cartoon as platforms and technology have expanded. This thesis will illustrate that recent satirical television programs like Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and Last Week Tonight signal a shift towards more researched and informative news satire. The role satire plays in informing audiences cannot be undervalued in an era where the way people, especially young people, get their news is shifting.