Document Type

Dissertation - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department / School

Sociology and Rural Studies

First Advisor

Meredith Redlin


This dissertation focuses on how news talk programs seek to create a relationship with their viewers via the total pragmatic structure of specific programs. As U.S. news and media systems are now driven by the forces of conglomerated capital and bureaucratic instrumental reason, the pragmatic elements of news talk programs constitute the link between macro-level political economic social systems functioning and consumer citizens' ideological political perspectives. By proliferating and delimiting Jurgen Habermas's theory of universal pragmatics, this study analyzes the self-legitimizing features of televised news talk programs. Specifically, ethnographic qualitative media methods as well as sociological theory construction techniques were integrated and employed in order to construct a substantive cultural theory of televised news pragmatics. Data was collected from two infotainment 24-hour news talk programs (The O'Reilly Factor and Countdown with Keith Olbermann) and two political satire news programs (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report). The theoretical framework constructed in this study allowed for a descriptive and comparative analysis of the pragmatic structures contained within the four news talk programs chosen for this investigation. The findings of this study conclude that compared to the two 24-hour news talk programs, the two satirical news programs offer more systemic critiques of political economic functioning as well as offer alternative political and cultural perspectives. This research demonstrates the inadequacy of the old dyadic categories of 'real' and 'fake' as analytical tools for understanding the complexities of 21st century news talk programming. These complexities represent a historical paradigm shift in the role of the news media in the construction and dissemination of political knowledge in a 'democratic' society. Thus, it is recommended that new and evolving forms of news talk programs be evaluated based on the degree to which each program and pundit reveals the limitations of what they do, as well as value positions that constrain the information they convey to viewers. Finally, the theoretical framework developed in this research contributes a new perspective aimed at increasing critical media literacy.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Television broadcasting of news -- United States
Television talk shows -- United States
Political satire, American
O'Reilly factor (Television program)
Countdown with Keith Olbermann (Television program)
Daily show (Television program)
Colbert report (Television program)




South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright