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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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9. The Whole World Is Watching: The Journalism of Change, 1950s-1970s 221


9. The Whole World Is Watching: The Journalism of Change, 1950s-1970s In 1968, the United States was in the midst of massive upheaval. The presi- dent, Lyndon Johnson, announced he would not seek a second term. War in Vietnam, which most Americans believed was going well for the country, took a deadly turn with the Tet offensive by the North Vietnamese. Two national figures, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, were gunned down. Rioting in the nation’s cities erupted again, just as it had for four previous sum- mers. Increasingly, young Americans, disenchanted with what was happening in the nation, took to the streets in protest. On August 28, 1968, outside the Hilton Hotel in Chicago, thousands of them gathered in Grant Park to protest at the Democratic National Convention. Millions of Americans turned on their televisions expecting to see Hubert Humphrey win the Democratic presidential nomination. But, increasingly, their screens were filled with protesters and police clashing on Michigan Avenue. As a soundtrack to the images, viewers could hear the protesters chanting repeatedly: “The whole world is watching. The whole world is watching.” In the decades following World War II, Americans watched as media pre- sented what was happening in the country. Incredible changes politically, cul- turally, and socially created unrest in the United States not known since the Civil War. Media advancements fueled those changes in ways never experienced by Americans. Television’s mercurial penetration into the nation’s psyche was unprecedented. From just a few thousand TV...

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