Questioning seriousness

Moritz Post

“The Media landscape has changed in the past decade.“ There is nothing extraordinary about this realization. But do classical or serious journalistic formats still fill out their role as guides for orientation in the public sphere through producing and distributing information? At times the blurring of boundaries in media made it hard to decide, whether a text is journalistic or not. Change of journalistic culture, new formats, data journalism, mobile and live journalism and collaborative and investigative networks is making the media market more complex (Meier et al., 2022). And as if it’s not confusing enough, unserious formats such as comic late-night shows and satirical TV programmes are increasingly filling the gaps that traditional news formats no longer seem able to fill. But satirical forms of news-representation and journalism make it hard to decide: Is the fact presented fictional or non-fictional? Or both? (Brugman et al., 2021)

It’s a core assumption of Questioning Seriousness, that satirical journalism relies not merely on humour, but on punchlines. This means that in order to effectively mock or ridicule government officials or influential individuals, it uses information and analyses. This subproject is an investigation into the manner in which teams of editorial professionals connect to the political present and decide on specific topics, particulars and constellations to reach the standards of comedic potential they expect from satirical journalism. Because their intention is to identify absurdities in political life through humour, writers and caricaturists dive into particulars of official documentation, politicians’ discourses and actions. This involves an expert style of examination, which is serious in its aims, but comedic in its output.

Questioning Seriousness will not try to find answers on normative questions such as “What role(s) should political satirists play?” or “What are the ideal functions of political satire?” (Hill, 2013), let alone postulate any form of ideal satire as a news format. The guiding hypothesis of this investigation is that the humorous perspective allows for a peculiar way of identifying, knowing and understanding the political present. The seriousness marking efforts to criticize, question or denunciation is thus superseded by an intention to provoke laughter regarding the issues at play. The purpose here is to ask if there is such a thing as a “serious sphere”. Questioning Seriousness tends to say: Of course not! For if humour is always located in the individual itself, seriousness is a construct, that some people agreed upon in certain contexts. But these are the ones, who tell people, that unseriousness cannot perform the same as seriousness. We have to question this!

References cited

Brugman, B. C., Burgers, C., Beukeboom, C. J., & Konijn, E. A. (2021). From The Daily Show to Last Week Tonight : A Quantitative Analysis of Discursive Integration in Satirical Television News. Journalism Studies, 22 (9), 1181–1199.


Hill, M. R. (2013). Developing a Normative Approach to Political Satire: A Critical Perspective. International Journal of Communication (19328036), 7, 324–337.


Meier, K., Schützeneder, J., García Avilés, J. A., Valero-Pastor, J. M., Kaltenbrunner, A., Lugschitz, R., Porlezza, C., Ferri, G., Wyss, V., & Saner, M. (2022). Examining the Most Relevant Journalism Innovations: A Comparative Analysis of Five European Countries from 2010 to 2020. Journalism and Media, 3 (4), 698–714.