Exposing the Shadow World Created by Journalists and Government Officials: The American Press


The Film Archives

Published on Aug 16, 2020

Journalism in America began as a “humble” affair and became a political force in the campaign for American independence. About the book: https://amzn.to/3h3xJ88

Following independence, the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteed freedom of the press and speech and the American press grew rapidly following the American Revolution. The press became a key support element to the country’s political parties but also organized religious institutions.

During the 19th century, newspapers began to expand and appear outside eastern U.S. cities. From the 1830s onward the penny press began to play a major role in American journalism and technological advancements such as the telegraph and faster printing presses in the 1840s helped expand the press of the nation as it experienced rapid economic and demographic growth.

By 1900 major newspapers had become profitable powerhouses of advocacy, muckraking and sensationalism, along with serious, and objective news-gathering. In the early 20th century, before television, the average American read several newspapers per day. Starting in the 1920s changes in technology again morphed the nature of American journalism as radio and later, television, began to play increasingly important roles.

In the late 20th century, much of American journalism merged into big media conglomerates (principally owned by media moguls, Ted Turner and Rupert Murdoch). With the coming of digital journalism in the 21st Century, newspapers faced a business crisis as readers turned to the internet for news and advertisers followed them.

Journalism historian David Nord has argued that in the 1960s and 1970s:

“In journalism history and media history, a new generation of scholars . . . criticised traditional histories of the media for being too insular, too decontextualised, too uncritical, too captive to the needs of professional training, and too enamoured of the biographies of men and media organizations.”[64]

In 1974, James W. Carey identified the ‘Problem of Journalism History’. The field was dominated by a Whig interpretation of journalism history.

“This views journalism history as the slow, steady expansion of freedom and knowledge from the political press to the commercial press, the setbacks into sensationalism and yellow journalism, the forward thrust into muck raking and social responsibility….the entire story is framed by those large impersonal forces buffeting the press: industrialisation, urbanisation and mass democracy.

O’Malley says the criticism went too far, because there was much of value in the deep scholarship of the earlier period.

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