Saturday Night Live: Fair Game for Network News

NBC’s Saturday Night Live (SNL) writers are having a field day with the 2016 presidential election. Now the show’s satire is creeping into network news coverage.

ABC’s Oct. 24 evening news led with Trump’s declaration he’s winning despite the polls. ABC first highlighted Trump’s difficulties staying on message, then mentioned SNL’s recent episode, saying “Trump’s troubles getting the SNL treatment.”

The report showed SNL’s recent third debate satire. Alec Baldwin (as Trump) mocked Trump’s notion he has more respect for women than anyone else does. Moderator Tom Hanks (as Chris Wallace) responded to the world’s laughter saying, “Calm down entire planet.” ABC didn’t include a Hillary Clinton joke.


This isn’t the first time for ABC. On Oct. 3, the network presented two clips that targeted Trump. Neither mocked Clinton. One clip parodied Trump’s constant interruptions. The second piece aimed at Trump’s broken microphone complaints. The moderator asked, “Secretary Clinton, what do you think about that?” The Clinton actor fired back with, “I think I’m going to be president.”

Trump attacked the show on Twitter. ABC displayed the tweet on its Oct. 17 broadcast.

Viewers could argue ABC appeared biased for showing a joke on Trump but none on Clinton. The issue grows when it is done repeatedly. Is SNL material off-limits for network news? If not, should the networks present jabs at both candidates to even the field?

Former editor at the Boston Globe, Matt Storin doesn’t see an issue with SNL material on network news. He stresses proper judgment when airing the content: “What other stories are you leaving out when you include SNL? Network time is very limited. It’s at a premium.”

Storin notes equal jabs at Clinton and Trump aren’t always required. He did acknowledge, “At least one Hillary jab should probably have been included” in ABC’s broadcasts.

Madhulika Sikka, former executive editor at NPR, argues SNL has a place in network news. “I don’t think SNL is off limits it just needs to used effectively,” she said.

Sikka said ABC’s SNL piece from Oct. 24 was the worst out of all three clips. With SNL, proper judgment is crucial.


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