ERIC Number: ED253894
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1985-Feb
Reference Count: 0
The Role of Humor in the Television News Narrative.
Five one-hour broadcasts of KPIX Eyewitness News (San Francisco) were analyzed to provide examples of a signification process and to understand both how humorous instances arise in the newscast and their likely meaning for the viewer. One general finding was that the amount of humor or attempted humor is quite small. Banter between anchorpersons, weather, and sports reporters occupied fewer than 60 seconds of each broadcast. All five episodes contained 12 autonomous segments that were separated from one another by commercial breaks or clearly identified changes in subject. Of the 39 instances of humor noted in the five broadcasts, (1) three appeared in the first half-hour of the program, that is, in the first three news segments; (2) four appeared in the segment of short news items following sports; (3) eleven were associated with the weather report; and (4) eight appeared in the segment of short items following the human interest feature. Of the humorous instances that appeared in the first three news segments, only one involved direct comment by an anchorperson; the other two were contained in the content of the news reports. These observations indicate that, by drawing a clear separation between levity and news content, humor serves as a boundary ritual, thereby creating a meaning context that is likely to reduce or minimize the significance of more serious content. Humor signals the viewers to switch from an informational paradigm to an entertainment paradigm. The presence of humor as an integral part of the news broadcast indicates a shift in the framework in which information is most likely to be understood and interpreted by the audience. (HTH)
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Audience Response; Television News
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Western Speech Communication Association (Fresno, CA, February 16-19, 1985).