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Dr. Young talks comedy and politics

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Dr. Dana Young

By Caroline Gassert, University of Delaware junior and intern for the University of Delaware's Center for Political Communication

MAY 20, 2019―In the current political climate, putting even the slightest comedic spin on content while keeping it factual and easy to follow―without backlash―is a challenging task. But this doesn't stop Dr. Dannagal Young, associate professor of communication at the University of Delaware and an affiliated faculty member of UD's Center for Political Communication.

Young not only teaches media communication courses at UD, but also hosts "Dr. Young Unpacks," a playful, informative talk show in Philadelphia that explores the psychology of media, politics and popular culture. "We live in complicated times," she says. "People want to understand what's going on around them without getting overwhelmed or freaked out. I'm an optimist. I believe that once you unpack a topic and help people understand how things work and why, they can start making the world better." With programming ranging from "Why D's & Rs HATE each other & why it matters" to "Arab spring and boat shoes," each one-hour show features an expert guest from the academic community to help unpack the topic.

Young has continued her research while teaching a variety of mass communication courses at UD, focusing on political communication, technology in media, misinformation in the political sphere and the effects of exposure to political satire. Dr. Young worked for four years with the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania on the FactCheck.org program, and she is a distinguished research fellow with Annenberg.

Young and co-authors Abigail Goldring, Shannon Poulsen, Kathleen Hall Jamieson were named finalists for the 2018 Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly Outstanding Journal Article Award for their July 2017 article, "Fact-Checking Effectiveness as a Function of Format and Tone: Evaluating FactCheck.org and FlackCheck.org." The article reports on the results of research to examine how information presentation affects the climate of political discourse. Young's team explored the possibility of using videos to check facts and the format's influence on the receptiveness of the audience. "We conducted a formal evaluation, in attempts to make information accessible to a wider audience," she recalls. "With comedians on staff, we made humorous and nonhumorous videos linked directly to texts of original FactCheck.org articles. People can digest videos; they clarify and simplify information. We did the study twice, all online through survey houses with panels of respondents." Young and her team analyzed this data for the effects of exposure to political satire, affecting knowledge of climate, attitudes and behavior. They found satire to be a unique form of communication affecting both sides of the partisan line in different ways. The team identified liberals as having specific traits that make people more receptive to satire while conservative voters are receptive to formal delivery of political content.

In her latest book, Irony and Outrage: the Polarized Landscape of  Rage, Fear and Laughter in the United States, Young breaks down the two distinct genres political communication, political satire and opinion talk radio, as the logical extensions of the psychology of the left and right, respectively. "One genre is guided by ambiguity, play, deliberation, and openness, while the other is guided by certainty, vigilance, instinct, and boundaries." To be published December 2, Irony and Outrage will illustrate how these varying traits help to explain why liberals and conservatives differ in the genres of political information they prefer to create and consume.

For more information on Young's work please visit her website and Dr. Young Unpacks. Go to Oxford University Press to pre-Order Irony and Outrage.

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Putting a comedic spin on political content while keeping it factual and easy to follow―without backlash―is challenging. But this doesn't stop Dannagal Young.
6/4/2019
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