Assignment 1: Introduction to Reporting of Statistics
In the video presented this week, on Last Week Tonight, reporter John Oliver discusses public defenders of this country. While watching the video, Oliver presents many humorous video clips, uses vulgar/sarcastic language, and seems to apply to a more comedic audience (which is common of late-night television). Because of his informal and mock-like presentation, I found it difficult to take all of his “facts” as valid without more research myself. In a dissertation written by Jennifer Kowalewski, she addresses if and how humor in the news may influence viewers. Comedy is thought to attract more views, but as Kowalewski found that they are not, and “individuals fail to counter argue against a humorous message, [so] they discount the information more, making the information less influential in the end,” (Kowalewski, 2009, p.26).
This finding supports that although humor is more pleasing than a more serious tone, it has no severe impact how influential the information is in the end. Taking this into consideration, the “facts” presented by Oliver in his humorous fashion would not influence viewers very much.
If this information is accurate, I do not think it is the best way to disseminate these issues to the general public. Although it is presented in a casual manner so as not to cause mass disruption or fear, it can also distract viewers from the seriousness of issues and cause lack of interest or further search for information. Late-night news broadcasts are defined as programs meant for humor and for the audience to unwind and look at the news from a “lighter perspective” (Public Broadcasting Group, 2014). Because of this, late-night shows have characteristics that cause the audience to view the news reported as “soft” news versus “hard”, therefore; if a serious topic needs to be presented to the public, it should be done so by a news program that viewers watch to gain serious information. Another article found addresses the impact of late night shows on the views of the audience and politics, but one idea stood out that relates to the overall characteristic of the type of viewers that watch the shows. It states that, “late night audiences are not typically watching to be informed (Brewer and Cao 2006, 20), which could hamper their capacity to retain knowledge,” (Parkin, 2009, p.4). This supports the previous ideas that people who watch late-night television programs are meant for humor and therefore the audience does not take information as serious. If Oliver’s information is correct this is an issue that should be brought up through a more serious and reliable news source.
If I were a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office, the number would be difficult to change, but the audience’s perspective and thoughts can be distracted and changed. The first tactic that can be used is to turn public inform the public to the fact that 66%, nearly two-thirds of our country, supports rehabilitation over incapacitation (Peter D. Hart Research Associates, 2002, p.5). Then expand on this idea by explaining how government and tax money should be distributed to rehabilitation programs instead of hiring more attorneys. Considering tax money is a sensitive topic, it will distract viewers from possible lack of available attorneys and make them believe it is because finances are going toward rehabilitation programs instead. This also follows an idea presented in the text regarding certain political influences being able to control the type of statistical information that is funded and disseminated to the public, (Miethe & Gauthier, 2008, p.27). With this financial power, it would be possible to fund some media outlets to release certain information to cover up any doubts consumers may have. Also, by distracting the viewers with different numbers regarding another issue, such as tax money going toward rehabilitation, consumers may change views.;
Kowalewski, J. (2009). DOES HUMOR MATTER? AN ANALYSIS OF HOW HARD NEWS VERSUS ENTERTAINMENT NEWS STYLES INFLUENCE AGENDA-SETTING AND PRIMING EFFECTS (Doctoral dissertation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2009) (pp. 1-189). NC. doi:https://cdr.lib.unc.edu/indexablecontent/uuid:d71453f5-a8b1-40d0-aff7-a195bff789bf
Miethe, T. D., & Gauthier, J. F. (2008). Simple Statistics: Applications in Social Research. NY: Oxford University Press.
Parkin, M. (2009, January 6). Taking Late Night Comedy Seriously: How Candidate Appearances on Late Night Television Can Engage Viewers.
Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Inc. (2002, February). Changing Public Attitudes toward the Criminal Justice System. Retrieved January 15, 2017, from https://static.prisonpolicy.org/scans/CJI-Poll.pdf
Public Broadcasting Group. (2014). Late Night TV. Retrieved January 15, 2017, from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/pioneers-of-television/pioneering-programs/late-night-tv/
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