OSU prof edits book on 'The Daily Show'

OSU prof edits book on 'The Daily Show'
Jon Stewart

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new book examines the way popular TV show “The Daily Show” uses rhetoric as a critique of the media and politics.

Trischa Goodnow, professor of speech communication at Oregon State University, edited the volume that analyzes the nature of “The Daily Show,” a satirical show hosted by Jon Stewart on Comedy Central that features real newsmakers.

The book, “The Daily Show and Rhetoric” examines the arguments that the show makes about the media and politics, the strategies that are used, and some of the particular issues about which the program makes arguments. Rhetoric is often defined as the study of writing or speaking as a means of persuasive communication.

“Recent surveys have polled Americans as saying Jon Stewart is the most trusted journalist in America, yet he refuses this label, insisting he is only an entertainer,” Goodnow said. “In fact, he has established his credibility through sophisticated uses of rhetoric.”

More than a dozen contributors skillfully demonstrate in the book that “The Daily Show” is more than just a show designed to make the audience laugh, but instead uses language to persuade and inform.

In the first chapter, Goodnow and former OSU graduate student Jonathan Barbur outline how Stewart has gained credibility even as the mainstream TV news media has lost it.

Goodnow argues that Aristotle describes ethos as “persuasion that is achieved by the speaker’s character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible.”

Another essay titled “Before and After The Daily Show” outlines how Stewart and his show have changed the media landscape by using rhetorical tools.

Author Robert Spicer of DeSales University shows how Stewart critiques the TV media’s use of clips by taking the same story, but showing an extended version of the same clip.

For instance, the announcement by George W. Bush of George Tenet’s retirement from the CIA in 2009 was followed by a short TV clip of Bush referring to Tenet as “resolute” and praising him. "The Daily Show" featured an extended clip, complete with Bush fumbling his words, giving his announcement a completely different context.

Goodnow said the idea for the book came out of her class at OSU, Introduction to Rhetorical Theory. The final assignment for the class is to show how rhetoric pervades everyone’s lives, using “The Daily Show” as an example.

“Rhetoric has gotten a bad name but my goal is to get students to unpack these ideas and really look at how rhetoric is used,” she said. “It’s important, because rhetoric is everywhere and can be a very powerful tool, but people need to be able to identify what is legitimate information and what’s not.”

Other chapters in the book include an analysis of the visual aspects by Lawrence Mullen of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, an overview of how the show has changed the nature of political satire by Spicer of DeSales University, and a look at “The Daily Show’s” treatment of “queer” topics by C. Wesley Buerkle of East Tennessee State University.

Goodnow is an expert on visual rhetoric. Her next book will tackle the way rhetorical devices are used in American movies.