In this post, I will discuss how late-night comedy shows became my primary news source.
My Journalism History
Before I took my first journalism course, my news derived from local television and radio outlets, rather than national networks. I lacked awareness of CNN or Fox, even though my household consistently watched a Fox affiliate news channel. As a child, listening to radio and television anchors taught me journalism principles through example, without most of the bias that I witnessed in national news coverage as an adult.
My Introduction to journalism college courses formalized the principles I learned during my childhood and exposed me to national news outlets. Reading the New York Times every day, as my professor highly recommended, demonstrated the differences between national and local news outlets. The more literary and biased language in its articles, not just the op-eds, first surprised and then worried me. Such language seemed counterintuitive to the goal of journalism: to objectively report on current events.
I’d eagerly discuss the news with my parents over dinner, to internalize what I had read. During one of these discussions, my dad introduced me to The Late Show with Steven Colbert. It tested my news judgment by presenting stories without the supposed objectivity of traditional news. The processes I learned in my journalism course helped me identify the show’s biases, and the truth behind its humor. The show itself attached emotional significance to current events.
My news consumption habits remained stagnant until the shelter in place order began in California in March 2020. I moved away from digital news toward late-night comedy shows, supplemented by CNN. The New York Times morning and evening briefings initially provided a sense of daily routine, but after a few weeks, they lost their appeal. The constant stream of worsening news heightened my anxiety. Instead, I used shows like The Late Show and the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, and CNN’s afternoon programming, as my preferred news sources. Even then, I hesitated to rely on CNN for information, other than the prior administration’s COVID-19 taskforce briefings, due to CNN’s liberal biases.
When the 2020 presidential debates began, I had grown tired of CNN’s overreactions toward current events, so I switched to using late-night comedy shows as my primary news source, supplemented by formal news when necessary. By this point, I understood that accurate knowledge of current events formed the foundation of late-night comedy shows’ humor. These shows delivered this information via well-written joke setups, and these jokes fulfilled the same purpose as national news networks, without the rush.
Once I understood this, I treated late-night comedy shows like traditional news: each show possessed its own biases and placed emphasis on different topics. Alongside The Late Show and The Daily Show, I began watching Late Night with Seth Meyers, Full Frontal with Samantha B, and The Amber Ruffin Show, to gain diverse perspectives on any given story.
Watching late-night comedy shows allowed me to apply my journalism training and develop my news judgment. Although such shows are nowhere near unbiased, they are a valuable source of information. If the viewer actively engages with the entertainment, then they can reap the benefits of watching news in a humorous way.