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Appropriation of Mainstream News: How Saturday Night Live Changed the Political Discussion

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Abstract:

This study analyzes the sourcing role alternative news outlets can play for mainstream news by focusing on one particular late-night comedy program. Quantitative and qualitative content analyses were conducted on the how journalists framed Sarah Palin's 2008 interview with Katie Couric prior to and following a Saturday Night Live (SNL) skit that parodied the exchange. Findings suggest that before the skit aired journalists tended to overlook the interview or attribute blame to those in the McCain campaign. After the skit was aired, however, journalists overwhelmingly attributed the fault to Palin herself and raised questions about her qualifications for office, especially when the SNL skit was included or referenced in the news story. Furthermore, a qualitative reading analyzed the context of including the skit by journalists and found that when the skit was used as a lead-in or reference, journalists tended to attribute the blame to Palin, yet gave agency of the critiques to others. This incident demonstrates the way that alternative news sources such as commentary, parody, and online content are increasingly being incorporated into the mainstream information environment.

Keywords: Sarah Palin; framing; infotainment; journalistic norms; late-night comedy; media environment; television news

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15295036.2012.701011

Publication date: March 1, 2013

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