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Inside Politics

Emerson students get news on 'Daily' basis

By Andrea Gabbidon-Levene
Special to CNN

Editor's Note: Campus Vibe is a weekly feature that provides student perspectives on the 2004 election from selected colleges across the United States. This week's contributor is Andrea Gabbidon-Levene, editor in chief at The Berkeley Beacon, the student newspaper at Emerson College. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of CNN, its affiliates or Emerson College.
From left, Amanda Morris, Rebecca Flanagan, Aliya Hamada and Graham Kenney watch a recent episode of "The Daily Show."

• More from Andrea Gabbidon-Levene and her colleagues: The Berkeley Beaconexternal link
Campus Vibe
Emerson College
America Votes 2004

BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- John Kerry did it. John Edwards announced he was running for president when he did it.

Appearing on programs like Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" has become a popular way for politicians to reach young people.

Many Emerson College students say they get their political news and analysis from "The Daily Show," NBC's "Saturday Night Live," HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher," and others.

"I think these shows are a good idea because a lot of people are interested in politics," said Emerson sophomore Rebecca Flanagan. "They will use things like that to get their info even if it's biased."

Flanagan says she is not very interested in politics and only occasionally watches "The Daily Show."

Although she tunes in mostly for the comedy, Flanagan says a byproduct of viewing is getting information and analysis.

This approach to reaching young voters is hardly new. Bill Clinton appeared on "The Arsenio Hall Show" and on MTV during his first campaign for the White House.

The influence of comedy shows can hardly be ignored -- 1.5 million viewers tuned in to see Jon Stewart chat with John Kerry.

"I think comedy shows have a lot of influence because they have such a big audience," said senior Ashley Beyer. "They can definitely get people to vote."

A survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press published in January found that 21 percent of people under 30 say they regularly get their political news from comedy shows.

As a regular Daily Show viewer, Jeremy Latour, a senior film major, says he actually trusts "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart more than other newscasters.

"The difference between Jon Stewart and other anchors is that Jon Stewart understands his audience. He knows what is interesting to them," Latour said. "Most newscasters are trying to make it interesting for their fellow newscasters."

Some students are attracted to these shows because of the perception that the hosts never seem to hold back. They freely criticize politicians without holding back their own opinions.

"They treat politicians separately from politics. Even though they may support democratic ideals, they see the comedy in everything politicians do," Latour said.

"I think it helps that they are honest about their bias. You know whether you want to listen or not. It shows that [hosts] really care about what they're saying."

Many students say that comedy shows are more interesting than the networks' evening news or the shows on cable news. They feel the reason is that the hosts identify more with their audience.

Some said they felt the mainstream news anchors talk down to them.

"They are entertaining, but they're also a decent source for political news," said Beyer, who kept up with the "Daily Show" during the Democratic and Republican conventions.

Student correspondent Andrea Gabbidon-Levene.

"Students don't feel like they're being talked down to. Sometimes these shows just have the most straightforward analysis. They actually say what people are thinking."

Jennifer Greer, 26, coordinator of service learning and community action at Emerson, enjoys watching the "Daily Show" because it mocks the bias in "real" news shows.

"When the 'Daily Show' points out the 'tricks' of the media or a campaign, we feel like someone's actually recognizing that distrust and calling people to task on it," she said.

"And no one is immune from the 'Daily Show's' barbs -- they don't really discriminate."

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