Breaking Boundaries| Political Media as Discursive Modes: A Comparative Analysis of Interviews with Ron Paul from Meet the Press, Tonight, The Daily Show, and Hannity

Geoffrey Baym


The landscape of public-affairs television continues to grow more complicated, as media producers, politicians, and citizens alike experiment with programmatic forms and generic configurations that transcend boundaries between news and entertainment, and politics and pop culture. Yet much scholarship still relies on largely obsolete distinctions inherited from an earlier media age. This study offers the concept of “discursive mode” as a complication of “genre” and a better means of conceptualizing contemporary practices and their implications. It then applies that concept to the study of one particular form of political media: the public-affairs interview. Examining interviews with the libertarian Ron Paul from four contrasting kinds of programs—Meet the Press, The Tonight Show, Hannity, and The Daily Show—this study explores the ways in which differing discursive modes meld traditions of journalistic accountability interviewing, television talk, and commercialized entertainment. It concludes by considering the implications of multiple discursive modes for the practice of politics and the study of political communication.

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