Friday, May 06, 2005

LexisNexis and the Olive Tree 

Thomas Friedman, master of research!

First, many educated people seem to be getting their news from Comedy Central. Say what? As any author will tell you, the best TV book shows to be on have long been Don Imus, Charlie Rose, C-Span, Tim Russert on CNBC, "Today," Oprah and selected programs on CNN, Fox and MSNBC. They are all still huge. But what was new for me on this tour was the number of people who also mentioned getting their news from Jon Stewart's truly funny news satire, "The Daily Show." And I am not just talking about college kids. I am talking about grandmas. Just how many people are now getting their only TV news from Comedy Central is not clear to me - but it is a lot, lot more than you think.

Interestingly, the Pew Internet and American Life Project and the National Annenberg Election Survey released some actual polling data about this amazing new development.
Pew (PDF) found that 5% of Americans "regularly" get news from the Daily Show, and 10% do it "sometimes."
Annenberg (PDF again) found that "Viewers of late-night comedy programs, especially The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central, are more likely to know the issue positions and backgrounds of presidential candidates than people who do not watch late-night comedy."

How did I know this? Because both of these reports were in the news all the goddam time 8 months or so ago, and because I know how to "google" things. Oh, and because the world is flat now.

Why is this important? Well, it isn't really. I just can't stand Friedman's mind-boggling laziness. Or his smarmy mustache. Actually, I vaguely agree with what seems to be his main point, which is completely unrelated to everything that comes before and after it and just sort of floats there, like he forgot to illustrate it with a story about interviewing a symbolic representation of globalization or a metaphor involving corporate logos. Next week, he ought to just put the "argument" part in the headline to get it out of the way so he can spin his folksy anecdotes and quote his celebrity executives. This week's column might look like:

There Should Be More Money for Science Education In Schools

I was on The Daily Show. It was fun, and John Stewart is really funny. Here are some important things about the Daily Show:
It seems like a lot of people watch it. Is this true? I don't know. But old people tell me they do, and I'm inclined to believe it. In the old days, people watched Charlie Rose and Dick Cavett. That's how I learned what books to buy. Now I just write books. You would be surprised how many people don't watch Dick Cavett anymore.

Little kids sometimes ask me what classes they should take. I say, "Stay in school!" You know, I don't even really remember any classes I ever took, but I remember my english teacher had us watch "Reading Rainbow." I don't really know, but I bet a surprising number of people watch "Reading Rainbow" these days.

I was eating lunch with the President of Google, Pete Google. "The world is flat, Tom," he said to me. "In the old days, light acted as a particle and a wave -- now it is a surfboard and an Aston Martin." Oh my god, I thought. I phoned my wife immediately. "I think I'm in New Delhi!" I said. "There are Gap stores and iPods everywhere and and a Sri Lancan telemarketer just bought me a Tender Crisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch sandwich!"

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