Serious news - a laughing matter? : How four segments from the satirical news program Last Week Tonight with John Oliver were portrayed in American news outlets

University essay from Södertörns högskola/Journalistik

Abstract: Satirical news programs are a very popular concept where people tune in to them for a laugh and might leave with a bit more knowledge on the subjects reported. With the popularity of such shows growing the media’s covering of them grows as well. The question is then how the media portrays these satirical news shows. In this study a framing analysis is used to analyse articles by four American news outlets – two traditional and two modern – to assess how the media is portraying the newer satirical news program Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. There has been a lot of research done on how satirical programs affect the world around them but this study instead looks at how the media chooses to portray such a show. The focus is on whether the media treats the program as entertainment or more like another news outlet and what kind of effect that could have on the two genres satire and news. This study shows that the media presents the program as not just a comedy show that makes fun of news but also as a credible source of information. It is portrayed as a bit of both and one is not shown to contradict the other. This indicates that the distinction between genres such as satire and news is blurring which in turn can make it harder for the audience to separate the two and thereby make it more difficult to know what is news and what is not.

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