Sie sind auf Seite 1von 9

Padden 1 Dan Padden Professor Dietel-McLaughlin Multimedia Writing and Rhetoric 2 October 2011 CNN: Colbert News Network??

On the night of May 1st, 2011, while the people of the United States went about their nightly routines, an electric message beamed across the skies. As soon as new stations caught wind of it, they immediately fired up all channels to emergency alert status. It was not a disaster they were announcing, but the hopes, prayers and promises of millions being answered as all around the country as a joyous scroll was unraveled: Osama Bin Laden was finally dead. Americans listened to President Obama in those early hours talk of the plan he put into action, and of the heroic actions of Navy Seal Team Six that had killed the leader of Al Qaeda just a few short hours before. The nation burst into rejoicing at this news. People came outside their houses and embraced their fellow citizens under the stars. In front of the White House, a crowd of thousands grew to honor the President that had finally brought justice to the man responsible for the atrocities of September 11th, 2001, almost ten years before. As the reports came flowing in over the next few days, news stations analyzed the event from all angles. As John Suler explains in The Psychology of Cyberspace, In cyberspace, people choose a specific communication channel to express themselves. This quote conveys the idea that different people will use different styles and methods when analyzing an issue. Networks such as CNN, who are dedicated to providing their viewers with the most accurate data, chose a calm, professional poise while distributing the facts. Others picked a more emotional, and an obviously more humorous way to present the same. Stephen Colbert was one

Padden 2 of those people that, with his show The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, used completely different methods to give viewers insight into the unfolding events. These two types of reporting are similar in that they both inform the viewer, yet shows like the Colbert Report provide a media platform to express the informal and possibly politically incorrect views of current events held by millions of people. It gives an easement to the alwaystense news environment of the present day, while bringing up legitimate questions that other news stations are too wary to ask. A greater understanding of this interesting phenomenon is not simply valuable for broadcasting network analysts, but for all who are impacted by current events. The example of Stephen Colberts report on the death of Bin Laden in video clip LongAwaited "We Got Bin Laden" Party is polar opposite to CNNs Osama bin Laden's Death, From All Angles in many ways, yet still exposes the main details and truths of the story. By taking a moment to gaze into videos of these two reports, we can begin to understand an understanding into the diverse styles of reporting and their projection of ideas to society. Perhaps the most obvious asset of the CNN clip is its ripeness of information on the actual sequence of events leading up to and after the death of Bin Laden. In the beginning of the video, they talk about how Bin Laden was found through locating his most trusted courier. CNN explains that over the past 8 years, and through detainees in Guantanamo bay, the CIA was able to eventually discover the identity and whereabouts of this courier. By addressing this aspect of the story, it reinforces a viewers trust in the government, which in turn reflects positively on the station and gives viewers a sense of security. Next they talk about how the President gave the final word to initiate the mission, as well as how he eventually made the decision to release to the public that we got him. Through their intensive information on the President and his role in the mission, CNN grants him the public appeal of millions of viewers, and the overall idea that

Padden 3 Obama was the man who should be given credit for these actions. They ended by describing how the military identified and then buried Bin Laden at sea. In all, CNN provided a mass amount of details and left little for the imagination when covering this event. It isnt hard to see their desire to appeal to traditionalist viewpoints. Stephen Colbert gives a slightly different approach to the information he provides. He starts by saying that Bin Laden was killed, and that he was shot through the eye. After a while he comes to his next conclusion that Obama is the one who deserves the credit for killing Bin Laden. With this, he shows a clip of Obama walking in and then delivering the speech where he formally addressed the fact. Overall, the data Colbert provides is similar to CNNs, yet much more direct and in a much smaller quantity. His focus was on the main points, and he analyzed each of them in more depth than CNN by spending more time on them. However, this was done in his own style, where he gave specific pieces of the story on which to provide his personal feelings and viewpoints. Overall, the information presented by both sources was similar yet differed in the category of depth. One can see from these two examples that regardless of amount of information, both sources are meant to be informative to the audience. Though there were many similarities in the content of the videos, the styles in which it was given reflects their differences in style of presentation. CNNs presentation starts off with Anderson Cooper addressing the issue, and even the title Osama Bin Ladens Death, From All Angles uses rhetoric to give the impression of professional non-bias in their reporting. They do this through the extensive use of maps, slides with bulleted information, pictures, and videos all from believably reliable sources. Starting off, they show the Google Earth image of his compound in Abbottabad. Then they transition into an animated video of where the Navy Seals went in, and how the ensuing hour panned out. Finally, using a video of the Deputy National

Padden 4 Security Advisor talking about the presidents concern for the safety of the Seals, they support the theme that Obama is due credit and praise for his part in the mission. Suler would refer to the presentation planners at CNN as verbalizers, because they give the viewer the impression of extensive research, high production quality, and a strong sense of impersonal professionalism similar to a written statement (Suler). The signal that CNN sends out from their front-line type of presentation and their reporters on location is that they should be looked to as a source of reliable information. As pointed out by Judith Donath and Danah Boyd in the article Public Displays of Connection in (E)dentity, Some signalsare inherently reliable because they are costly in terms of the quality they are signaling (33). CNNs explicit promotion of expensive on-site videos and reporting shows their understanding of this rhetorical device. Stephen Colberts techniques of presentation are quite different in nature. One glance at the title The Long-Awaited We Got Bin Laden Party is all it takes to realize the lighthearted approach Colbert brings to this issue. As the camera pans in, Colbert is leading the audience in a USA chant. This immediately brings a feeling of American pride to all viewers. One of Colberts first lines is I am as giddy as a schoolgirl who just shot Bin Laden in the eye! In the eye! Kaboom! This line further pushes the notion of pride at the viewers, yet it is coupled with the malevolent idea of happiness at the death at another. After calming down a bit, he decides it is time to release his We Got Bin Laden party. As the balloons begin to fall, it becomes apparent that some of them are popped, others look deflated, and dust comes down with themall signs that the party has long been planned, yet has not come to apparition until the present day. This action brings viewers back into the past, as they recall the decade since the manhunt began. He also pulls out a cake for the eventwith visible mold on it and references to Bjorks swan dress and the hit television show The Weakest

Padden 5 Link. These are both classic icons of the year 2002an elusion to the fact we believed we would have caught Bin Laden long ago. Next, he turns the focus to giving credit to Obama, as a large picture of him is set upon the screen. Colbert refers to the fact that he will stop hassling Obama in his shows and give him credit for as long as he deserves. He then pulls out an hour timer, and twists the dial. This portrays how he truly feels on the matterthat Obama took a fairly minor role in the death of Bin Laden. Next he turns to a more lighthearted caricature of Obama; this time it is a clip of him walking to the microphone to deliver his speech on the mission, but in slow motion and set to a soundtrack. This portrays Obama being overly prideful at his accomplishment. Finally, he wraps up with a video of Obama stating that Osama Bin Laden has been killed, yet when it ends he continues to ask his crew for stronger and stronger clips of people stating this same fact. These videos become more and more ridiculous until they climax with a munchkin from the Wizard of Oz singing of the death of the Wicked Witch. This final transition leads viewers back into the fun-filled atmosphere of a comedy show. Overall, the presentation style Colbert would be classified as a visualized approach by Suler, which puts strong emphasis on the symbolic and creative means used to portray Colberts critical message of how long it took to capture Bin Laden and how Obama should not reap in all of the credit for the missions success (Suler). The main difference between the presentation styles of Colbert and CNN is Colberts use of props to state ideas, versus the classic-news style of an anchor shuffling papers behind a desk that CNN utilizes. The last and perhaps the most important aspect analysis between the two shows is that of the tone used while reporting. In the CNN clip, Anderson Cooper starts his conversation of the issue with a serious, composed, and professional persona. During the entirety of the clip, all newscasters involved remain relaxed and very informative while speaking of the events

Padden 6 especially when speaking about the planning stages of the mission. However, as the tension builds, getting closer to the time of the strike, the pace and intensity of the speaking picks up with the intended effect of placing the viewer in an excited state. When referring to the moments in the conference room of the president during the mission, the tone switches to dramatic and tense, finally concluding with the quote from the president of we got him. This type of speaking can almost be compared to that which is used in the explanation of a scientific experiment: what was needed, how the pieces fit together, and what the end product was. The tone was very professionally oriented, yet it still had the desired effect of drawing listeners in and connecting them to the story which also contributes an emotional appeal. Colberts approach to tone is completely different. As the clip begins, he hysterically starts a USA chant while leaning forward towards the audience. This immediately excites viewers, and puts them into a vivacious mood. After the chant, he is visibly excited to the point where he has to hold himself back to breathe. This overall sense of happiness continues into a scene of him grinning into a mirror, where he again obviously attempts to convince the audience he is happy. It is roughly at this point, that the one can begin to pick up that he has led viewers over the edge, and that he is now sarcastically poking fun at the people who are perhaps too happy at the Bin Ladens demise: imitating those who believe that his death is the be-all end-all for halting terrorism. Next, during the party scene, his face portrays a strong sense of disgust when the dust and old balloons fall from the ceiling and he begins to sweep the dust off of the table, though he attempts to disguise it. This is the strongest indicator to the notion that perhaps we should look back and consider how long its been since the manhunt actually began. To solidify the point in viewers minds, he meticulously places a towel over the dust before leaning forward and continuing on his way. When Colbert resumes, he focuses on the fact that it was

Padden 7 Obama that made the final call on the strike, yet he clearly portrays it as an obvious decision. He caps it off with the extremely sarcastic move to set a timer for how long he believed Obama truly deserved creditunder an hour. Viewers watching this begin to understand how Colberts ideas on the current issues of the news often go against the flow of mainstream reporting. As he finishes with the clip of people proclaiming Bin Ladens death, he again becomes extremely excited about the fact, eventually to the point at climax where he sweeps a finger through the dust on the table, then sucking it off like frosting on a cake: reminding the American people one final time that even though it took so long to kill him, we were still successful with our efforts in the end. Colberts use of sarcasm fits perfectly in with Herricks definition of rhetorical discourse. Through his portrayal of the topic, one can see that his actions are definitely planned, adapted to his audience, shaped by human motives, responsive to the situation, and persuasion seeking (8). He fulfills these requirements throughout his clip by using intense sarcasm to give the viewer a newfound understanding of the issues rampantly encountered in daily media. Those who analyze these same shows may have a different viewpoint on the issue at hand. They may say that the way the two shows interact with the American people are completely different, and that the Colbert Report is not actually to taken seriously when looking at issues plaguing the media. They may say that Colberts show is meant to be purely comedic, and in no way is supposed to portray actual and realistic viewpoints on issues, and therefore the reporting done by Colbert on events should not be looked for a serious understanding of current issues. To them I would say that Colbert should be looked at not by how closely he follows the example set by other news broadcasters, but how much he deviates from it. Colbert is not interested on reporting to the public the same things they hear everyday from CNN, but the alternate, more shadowed sides of those affairs. Utilizing the comedy as his medium, he picks

Padden 8 apart the intimate and sometimes politically incorrect details of an issue that are seldom revealed by traditional media. Broadcasting as a comedy show allows him to be more blunt than possible in any other reporting environment, which contributes both to the direct honesty and crude humor he places into many of his stories. I believe that with his style of reporting, we can learn more about the rough, and equally important edges of an issue that make it the hotbed it is, which is truly a key aspect if we are ever to understand that topic in its entirety. As stated above, while the two in conjunction may seem a unlikely pairing, they are definitely worth observing together. Both Colbert and CNN have the same point of analysis, yet it is the ways they interpret those events and the ways they present them to their audience that makes them different. On their own, they are equally valuable in different ways: with CNN one learns more about the facts, and with Colbert they will receive more on the improper sides of the issue at hand (along with a decent amount of laughs). Yet, when both are considered for the purpose of analyzing an issue, they can bring together the perfect blend of expedience, information, lightheartedness, and critical analysis that is necessary for complex thought. And while neither may be the only way to look at a story in the news, combined they are the cornerstone for a solid understanding of the way an issue effects society. Through an in-depth comparison of the two, one can begin to see some of the important underlying tensions in our mediated culture.

Padden 9 Works Cited CNN. CNN: Osama bin Ladens death, from all angles. Online Posting. YouTube, 3 May 2011. Web. 2 Oct. 2011. Colbert, Stephen. Long-Awaited We Got Bin Laden Party. Online Posting. Colbert Nation, 2 May 2011. Web. 2 Oct. 2011. Herrick, James A. An Overview of Rhetoric. The History and Theory of Rhetoric. 2nd ed. 2001. 1-31. Web. 6 Oct. 2011. Suler, John R. Identity Management in Cyberspace. Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies 4 (2002): 455-460. Rider University. Web. 3 Oct. 2011. Vie, Stephanie. Excerpt from Public Displays of Connection. (E)dentity. 29-43. Southlake: Fountainhead, 2011. Print.