Is Satire Superior to Straight News?

The kinda funny that sticks

Keli Dailey

If asked to do comedy full time after 15 years of "straight" journalism, most media types would be daunted. But not Keli Dailey.

When the UT graduate – a former San Diego Union-Tribune food writer and L.A. Times and Frontline contributor – entered Stanford as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow, she wondered why there were no woman-led shows like The Daily Show. So she shopped for funding, got it, and launched News Hangover, producing and starring in satirical videos for six months.

The process gave her unique insight on the format's advantages. Now she's passing on that insight as a college professor and a presenter at SXSW.

"People like comedy news [because] they just really want you to come out and [tell them]: Should I like it? Should I hate it? People want you to be explicit in how you feel about things," she says.

As a journalist trained to remain objective, Dailey recalls, at first making the transition was "psychological."

"Saying, like, 'This is the lens through which I'm going to explore' ... no good journalist feels good doing that."

But as uncomfortable as admitting bias in an industry where "editorializing" is taboo might be, research shows that straight news doesn't sink in as well as satire. And there's the rub: If journalism's aim is to help people make better, smarter decisions, isn't there an argument for more editorializing?

"I wouldn't say I don't believe in straight journalism," Dailey says. But, she points out, jokes in news are as American as apple pie.

"Ben Franklin was a satirist. This is our heritage. We are supposed to challenge big institutions and address big problems. We can do it a funny way and [in] a sober way."

Dailey just wrapped up a semester teaching News Satire at St. Mary's College of California, guiding others through a process she worked through on her own. "It's teachable," she says. "Some of the kids were shy. But they were able to, with guidance, produce new information that was hilarious. I'm a black female, so the number one thing I [had] to communicate to them is ... be aware of the 'other.' It's really easy to punch down. John Oliver ... he punches up."

Serious vs. Satire: The Trump Story


The Washington Post ran a story, "Donald Trump on a protester: 'I'd like to punch him in the face.'" It begins, "Donald Trump said he wanted to punch a protester 'in the face' after the man disrupted a campaign rally in Las Vegas on Monday night. 'Here's a guy, throwing punches, nasty as hell, screaming at everything else, when we're talking,' Trump told the crowd, although CNN reported the man did not appear to be fighting with security officers."


The Onion ran a story, "'I'm Trump All The Way,' Says Man Who Will Die From Mishandling Fireworks Months Before Election." It begins, "According to statements made Monday by local resident David Kearney, a 36-year-old delivery driver who will die in a fireworks mishap months before the general election, he is 'a Trump man all the way.'"

Related Panel

Comedy Is the New Journalism: The Power of Satire
Friday, March 11, 5pm
Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon G

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SXSW Interactive 2016, Keli Dailey, News Hangover

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