Open Access
Burton, Sarah J
Graduate Program:
Media Studies
Master of Arts
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
October 18, 2010
Committee Members:
  • Martin Halstuk, Thesis Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Matthew Frank Jordan, Thesis Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Robert Dwayne Richards, Thesis Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • discussion
  • debate
  • deliberative democracy
  • mediaocracy
  • infotainment
  • role
  • criticism
  • dissent
  • First Amendment
  • history
  • legal research
  • ethnography
  • The Colbert Report
  • The Daily Show
  • fake news
  • satirical news
  • deliberation
  • entertainment
  • politics
  • media
  • intentions
  • comedy
  • comedians
  • satire
This research project argues that in an age of infotainment and a failing news media, satirical news has emerged as an important force in revealing truth and engaging an apathetic public in politics and debate. Therefore, this research project seeks to distinguish and examine the roles of satirical news in encouraging a deliberative democracy. Satirical news has historical roots in the First Amendment as a loud critic and purveyor of political dissent. More recently, satirical news shows on television—the precursors to The Daily Show—have faced many barriers, including political party maneuverings, ratings, and falling advertising revenue, ultimately finding that if staying power required potent satire, such roadblocks must be ignored. Finally, political comedians intend to affect change or prove an ideological point through their satire, but often after criticism, hide behind the satirist shield and claim, "I'm just a comedian." Such a stance has benefits in that it encourages comedians to more fearlessly challenge pseudo-structures created by the political-media elites, filling the role traditionally held by journalists. At the same time, the satirist shield allows politicians and media elites to throw satirical news critiques aside, regardless of their truth and importance. In the end, satirical news is certainly important to democracy. If those in power fail to recognize satire's significance, they must be either forgetting or ignoring the First Amendment's purpose of encouraging robust and free debate. Such debate and discourse, fueled by the rearrangement power structures and the invocation of indignation, are necessary outcomes of satirical speech. These distinct roles of satirical news serve a theoretical basis for legitimizing the impact of such shows on the creation of an informed citizenry.