ABC Uses Satire to Help Frame Perception of DeVos

Does satire have a place on the network nightly news?

On Monday, Feb. 6, ABC’s story about Betsy DeVos’s confirmation featured a Saturday Night Live soundbite. It portrayed the secretary of education as clueless.

“I do think there should be a school,” said comedian Kate McKinnon playing DeVos. “And I do think it should have walls and roof and gun for potential grizzly.”

The gun reference was to earlier DeVos comments citing a potential grizzly bear attack to justify guns in schools.

CBS covered the pending senate vote without satire.

Including an SNL skit raises a question about the role of satire and how network news should treat it. During the campaign, broadcasts used SNL skits to target both candidates. Now all the satire is directed at the Trump administration.


Was ABC’s use of satire fair to DeVos?

“That is a lazy, irrelevant, even biased use of [satire] to make DeVos look bad,” said David Zurawik, a media critic for the Baltimore Sun. “It really cheats the viewers when you have that limited amount of time and that’s how you’re wasting it.”

Zurawik said that while he disagreed with this particular usage of satire on the evening news, he believes it can be a fair and powerful tool in journalism if used correctly.

“It just didn’t serve a journalistic purpose at all,” added Howard Schneider, the dean of journalism at Stony Brook University. “It was there to entertain the audience, not inform them.” Schneider thought using the Sean Spicer part of the skit showed that ABC overdid entertainment in this instance because Spicer was unrelated to the rest of the story.

Jon Mednick

Jon Mednick is a senior broadcast journalism and marketing double major from Reisterstown, Maryland. He is currently a video editor at CBS affiliate WUSA9 in Washington, D.C. where he has been working for almost two years. Jon has worked with Pulsefeedz, the Left Bench, Capital News Service and WMUC Sports in his four years at Maryland. After he graduates in May, Jon would like continue pursuing a career in sports broadcasting. He can be reached at @J_Mednick on Twitter.

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