By KRISTEN LAWRENCE
Stephen Colbert recently announced he signed a five-year contract with CBS to succeed David Letterman as host of “The Late Show,” in 2015. In choosing Colbert as the new host, CBS most likely hopes to attract younger viewers in a similar way that host Jimmy Fallon has on NBC’s, “The Tonight Show.”
This push to draw young adults back to late night television may be due to the fact that less young people are relying less on mainstream media informants for information than ever before, as evidenced by the immense popularity of satirical cable programs such as “The Colbert Report” and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”
This refusal to rely on popularized broadcasting may be due to a sense of disillusionment toward broadcasting which is important to address, and hopefully through adding voices which young adults can trust, such as Colbert, work to solve the issues which has caused the disillusionment in the first place.
Particularly in news stories, stations in the media hold fast to the idea of objectivity, and claim neutrality through slogans and statements such as Fox News’s, “Fair and Balanced” and Politico’s, “Holding tightly to principles of fairness and accuracy.”
However, progressions in technology over the past forty years gave individuals, as well as the media, a greater ability to express their opinions in a public forum, opinions that can be heard by many and may have the potential to influence the viewpoints of the country.
The expansion of possibilities for public expression has not diminished the ideal of neutrality in the media but increased the temptation for journalists to speak their point of view to a wider audience.
Because of the rigid enforcement of objectivity, many journalists attempt covert methods to attempt to influence their viewers with their opinions, using the guise that said opinions are nonpartisan. Even the choice of wording can influence how a reader interprets a particular situation.
The argument should be made that what may be causing the withdrawal of support of mainstream networks by young adults is not necessarily the fact that journalists are stating their opinions.
Colbert and Stewart are characterized by their opinionated satire, although they are in no way trying to attain neutrality. It is within the media’s attempt to claim neutrality while working to sway public opinion that may have turned away young viewers.
When journalists express their own opinion on current events and make that intention clear, they are not only positively received, but their honesty has the ability to change the view for many in the country by simply presenting a new point of view.
An example of this was in 1968 when reporter Walter Cronkite spoke out about the Tet Offensive against the U.S. and South Vietnam forces during the Vietnam War. Cronkite, in his closing address, performed something unheard of in the media’s rigid system of objectivity: he gave his opinion.
According to the NPR, Cronkite stated, “we’d like to sum up our findings in Vietnam, an analysis that must be speculative, personal, subjective.
Who won and who lost in the great Tet Offensive against the cities? I am not sure. The Vietcong did not win by a knockout, but neither did we… To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, if unsatisfactory conclusion.”
In expressing his personal opinion of the Vietnam War, Cronkite was able to play a role in the drastic change in the opinion of the Vietnam War in the U.S. from support to opposition.
Cronkite, as a journalist, exerted an enormous amount of influence on the American people during that time, particularly as he was given the title of “the most trusted man in America,” according to PBS.