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The Media’s Role in Defining the Nation

The Active Voice


David Copeland

In 1897, William Randolph Hearst said that his newspaper did not simply cover events that had already happened. «It doesn’t wait for things to turn up», Hearst said. «It turns them up.» This book traces the close relationship between media and the United States’ development from the colonial period to the twenty-first century. It explores how the active voice of citizen-journalists and trained media professionals has turned to media to direct the moral compass of the people and to set the agenda for a nation, and discusses how changes in technology have altered the way in which participatory journalism is practiced. What makes the book powerful is that its assessment of the influence and use of media encompasses many levels: it explores the potential of media as an agent for change from within small communities to the national stage.


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7. My Medium Is Everywhere: New Media and the New Century 157


7. My Medium Is Everywhere: New Media and the New Century As the nineteenth century ended, new media that differed from the world of print began to capture the attention of people. Motion pictures, recorded music, and radio were in various stages of implementation, but all held the potential for changing the consumption of information as well as the enter- taining of society. In less than thirty years, people would start to talk about another new medium—television. In the 1890s, Nathan Stubblefield began to experiment with a new invention in his hometown of Murray, Kentucky. In 1902, he tested publicly his wireless telephone there, on the Potomac River outside the nation’s capital, and in a number of other locations.1 He boldly proclaimed, “My medium is everywhere,”2 in reference to his assertion that his wireless could travel through air, water, and even earth. But Stubblefield’s pronouncement had much greater implications. He, along with others whose names had already or would soon become known in households throughout the nation, were in a race to develop media that would transform the way society received information. In Stubblefield’s case, the new “wireless” medium was broadcast through the air. Its content could move almost instantaneously between points. All one needed to listen to the transmission was a receiver. As radio waves filled the air, this new, wireless medi- um, indeed, had the potential to be everywhere. It and other new means of sharing with the masses became as much a part of what...

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