Does Humor Matter?: An Analysis of How Hard News Versus Entertainment News Styles Influence Agenda-Setting and Priming Effects Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Kowalewski, Jennifer
    • Affiliation: Hussman School of Journalism and Media
  • The Pew Research Center for People & the Press has reported that more young people are turning to nontraditional news programs for political information. Programs such as Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show increasingly have become more popular during presidential elections than traditional news programs such as NBC Nightly News. Entertainment programs often have political information but present that information in a more humorous context than traditional news programs. This study tests how the presentation style, entertainment versus traditional hard news, influences both the agenda-setting and priming effects. The study also examines how an individual's pre-existing attitude, namely whether the attitude is congruent with the news information, colors how influential the hard news and entertainment news information is with regard to agenda setting and priming. The findings suggest that presentation style and attitude congruence effects are based on the actual issue. For example, first-level agenda-setting effects were more apparent for hard news than for entertainment news, but this was found for one issue only. The opposite was found for another issue. The results also indicated an interaction between presentation style and existing attitude for both agenda-setting and priming effects. Individuals who had a congruent attitude toward the information about the issue were more influenced by the issue when they received hard news as compared to individuals who held incongruent attitudes and received entertainment news. However, this was also only seen for certain issues or evaluations. The findings suggest that traditional news programs do not have a monopoly on informing individuals about the current political environment. Journalists need to realize that young people want to be entertained, as well as informed. The news of yesteryear no longer appeals to the younger generation. Although The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are considered fake news, individuals still obtain information from them. Maybe if more news programs incorporate humor into their reporting, they will draw larger audiences. But for certain issues, journalists may need to convey the importance of those issues to their audience by eliminating the humor, or individuals may discount the issue as a major problem in the nation. Overall, though, the experiment showed promising results. As entertainment news programs grow in popularity, more research is needed to investigate more fully how these programs may influence public opinion in the future.
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  • Dillman Carpentier, Francesca
  • Open access

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