The news media industry has changed enormously in the past 10 years. Every day the line between news and entertainment is blurred further, and the Internet redefined who is considered a journalist. Host Frank Stasio spends the hour examining this blurred line and how it affects news consumers.
He talks first with political scientist Ben Taylor about how films can unconsciously shape political views. Taylor co-authored a new study that claims entertainment media can affect viewer’s political opinions more than they think. The research found that viewers changed their leanings on authoritarianism after watching the films "300" or "V for Vendetta.”
He is then joined by media industry experts Geoffrey Baym and Laura Davis to discuss the rise of entertaining, satirical news shows and how traditional press outlets have reinvented themselves to stay alive in an increasingly digital world. They examine how news has evolved from the days of Walter Cronkite’s dry, informational reports from around the world. Audiences now tune in eagerly to bitingly satirical news shows like “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” and “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.” He ends the hour with Durham locals Kevin “Kaze” Thomas and Karim “Bishop Omega” Jarrett who host the show “Intelligently Ratchet,” a comedic show broadcast on Facebook Live that combines book-smarts and street-smarts. The co-hosts explain how they're using social media to host an unapologetic entertainment news show about the issues they care about most.
Ben Taylor, a political science professor at UNC-Wilmington on the study he co-authored about authoritarianism and movies:
Ben: Our starting place was this idea of social learning theory, because when one enters into a movie theater, you enter [with] the willing suspension of disbelief. And there’s a reason to believe based on several psychological theories that that can have effects on the way you understand the world — at least having watched the film. And so we did an experiment where we randomly assigned people to watch three different films: “300,” a film about sparta and the battle of thermopylae. We had them watch “V for Vendetta,” which was a film about anti-authoritarians in this fictitious UK environment, and then we had them watch “21 Jump Street” as a control group.
And we found that ... “300” specifically does activate authoritarianism, and that then affects attitudes. For instance, authoritarians are less likely to support immigration. We found that they were more likely to believe that military service is a requirement for citizenship. They thought the United States was better than other places … And these are important findings. Then, with “V for Vendetta”, we found that that actually decreases authoritarianism.
Geoffrey Baym, department chair for media and communications at Temple University on the political leanings of satire:
Geoffrey: I think that satire has long been a mode for progressive interaction with the world. But I think we also want to point out here that when we’re thinking about the intersection of news and entertainment, satire is one formation. Often from the conservative side you have people like Sean Hannity, or Glenn Beck, or Rush Limbaugh who describe themselves largely as entertainers, and I think their audiences find them very entertaining. It’s a very different mode of speech, but one that still seems to function somewhat similarly.
Laura Davis, journalism professor at the University of Southern California, on what changes in the transition from print journalism to digital:
Laura: [Digital] doesn’t mean you drop your standards ... All those values and standards still hold, but it’s more about changing the tone around those values and standards — the way they’ve traditionally been communicated. I teach really conversational writing, for example.
And it’s not that that convention hasn’t come into other formats as well, but… embracing the way people communicate and talk on the Internet, and not trying to stick to conventions that were developed for newspapers which are fundamentally communicating in a different way ... If you think about where a push alert goes, it goes on your lock screen on your phone where people are texting you, and you’re getting notifications about Facebook updates from friends and family, right? So it’s a really personal space.
Bishop: Some stuff is nonsensical that the media will do … Instead of people embracing it, they wanted to put a negative spin on it. And then they brought in, “Oh, he doesn’t respect the military.” [Kaepernick] said, “I didn’t talk about the military.” Once something gets in the media, everybody goes with that same trend. And then it’s like, let’s back it up. That’s the good thing about being on Intelligently Ratchet, and us doing our own thing, because we can say, “No.” All this right here, let’s not talk about that. We can go on this path.
Kaze: Then, you get commentary … From a lot of talking heads about how we should feel about it. Without asking any of us how we really feel about it. I haven’t seen a 21, a 25, a 30-year-old African-American male on any of these shows saying how it affects him or how he feels about it. But I see a lot of people ... It’s just a lot of people that have PhDs that are making six figures talking about what’s going on with a kid in Durham that’s walking on Fayetteville Street.