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date: 18 January 2021

Satire and Journalismlocked

  • Jason PeiferJason PeiferThe Media School, Indiana University Bloomington
  •  and Taeyoung LeeTaeyoung LeeSchool of Journalism, University of Texas at Austin


Satire represents a form of public discourse that invites critical judgment of some sociopolitical folly, absurdity, or contradiction. Through devices like exaggeration, irony, and imitation, a satirical text aspires to cut through spin, deception, and misrepresentation in order to spotlight a given state of affairs as they are or could be. That is, satire is propelled by an impulse to elucidate; to highlight some truth. In many respects, journalism’s normative aspirations are similar to that of satire. Journalism’s guiding principles are commonly discussed in light of a central mission to seek and report the best obtainable version of the truth. Though satirical and journalistic endeavors are often carried out with contrasting tones of sobriety, both forms of discourse exhibit idealism in offering unblinking assessments of social realities. Accordingly, it is hardly surprising that satire and journalism have an extensive history of interplay, dating back to some of the earliest venues of modern journalism. Given satire’s penchant to freely draw from the conventions and norms of a wide range of cultural practices in its pursuit of mounting social critiques, it follows that satire would frequently leverage the tools of journalism for its purposes. The journalism profession has long laid claim to privileged legitimacy in the public sphere, positioning itself as a voice of authority in interpreting public affairs events and issues. Journalism’s traditional (though certainly not uncontested) position of privilege has proven useful to satirists. Likewise, satire’s entertaining and attention-getting qualities have long enticed news media actors.

Academic scholarship centered on the interplay of satire and journalism emanates from a variety of research orientations, employs a diversity of methods, and focuses on a wide range of topics and cultural contexts. The bulk of this body of research highlights satirical work that draws from journalism-based conventions and practices (for example, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart), but pockets of scholarship also consider conventional journalism’s engagement with satire. Still other scholars focus more on how the convergences of journalism and satire spawn hybrid forms of discourse that contribute to public culture in meaningful ways. Building on the insights afforded by these diverse lines of research, future satire–journalism scholarship would be well served by continuing to draw from across these multifaceted research streams.

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