Master of Mass Communication (MMC)


Mass Communication

Document Type



The HBO television program Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is a new and unique take on the typical political comedy show popularized by programs like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Uninterrupted by commercial breaks and with full creative control, host John Oliver and his team spend 30 minutes on Sunday nights discussing a typically underreported story at length, abandoning the monologue and interview portions reminiscent of traditional political comedy shows in favor of a long-form style investigation into a particular issue or topic. The main segment of each episode is then uploaded to the social media website, YouTube, within 24 hours of the show’s airing for free viewing by anyone with an Internet connection. As a result, the show has garnered both critical acclaim and an active fanbase of millions who view, share, and interact with the show by responding to numerous calls to action that usually follow each segment. This study seeks to analyze the show’s potential effects on news production, specifically within the context of intermedia agenda setting, the ability for the show’s content to lead news outlets to cover the topics discussed during each episode in the time following the episode’s airing. Through keyword searches, counts of news coverage on online news entities in periods both before and after the show’s air date were collected in an effort to determine if there are more articles in the days following a Last Week Tonight episode than in the days preceding one. Paired sample t-tests were used as the primary method of statistical analysis to compare the means of each set of counts. Results indicate at least a moderate effect of the show on levels of news coverage across 25 different episodes for both traditional and native online news entities.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Grimm, Josh