Does Humor Matter? An Analysis of How Hard News versus Comedy News Impact the Agenda-Setting Effects

Authors

  • Jennifer Kowalewski Georgia Southern University

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.58997/smc.v28i1.53

Abstract

Although hundreds of studies have investigated public opinion formation through agenda-setting research, many scholars have not examined how atypical news programs, such as comedy news, might impact the transfer of issue salience from the media’s agenda to the public’s agenda. With the increasingly popularity of these programs, scholars need to examine if comedy news, such as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert, impact agenda setting effects, and how that might compare to typical hard news programs, such as those seen on CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News. In an experiment, this study tested how individuals who received the same information only presented differently, namely either hard news or comedy news, reacted to the different presentation styles; and how those different presentation styles impacted individuals’ acceptance of the media’s agenda, taking into account their existing attitudes. Results indicated that when individuals agreed with the information presented in the news story, the hard news was more successful in the transfer of issue salience than the comedy news; however, when individuals disagreed with the information, the comedy news was more successful in the transfer of issue salience than the hard news. Overall, the results indicate typical hard news does not have a monopoly on the agenda-setting process because comedy news can set the agenda of audience members under certain conditions.

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Published

2019-06-13

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