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National Press Corps Director: Sam Zeidman - Institute for Domestic ...

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R u t g e r s Mo d e l C

R u t g e r s Mo d e l C o n g r e s s 3 with regard to its relationship with the government and international issues, especially in the United States. History of News Media Since the 1790s, the mass media has had a tenuous relationship with governments around the world, especially in the case of the United States. Over the last two hundred years, the media and its influence can be categorized into five different eras. The first time period occurred between 1790 and 1840, and can be called the Partisan Media Era because during this time, the media, for the most part, was nothing more than just a support system for the different political parties. However, because the price of newspapers was so high, only the people that were directly affected by political discourse would read it, therefore severely limiting the influence to the mass audience. 5 The second era, the Commercial Media Era, lasted from 1840 to 1920. This was a period in which the media’s influence started to grow due to the increased circulation of the newspaper as a result of a significant decrease in price. This time also saw the introduction of the telegraph and the increased coverage of both the American Civil War and the Yellow Journalism: Newspapers published by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer freely engaged in "yellow journalism," exaggerating Spanish military operations against Cuban rebels. Sensational coverage biased the American public against Spain, and vastly expanded the newspapers' daily circulations. Source: dialib/glossary/gloss_20.html Spanish-American War. During this period, award-winning journalists Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst pushed the commercial media to its limits by engaging in cutthroat, sensationalistic media coverage. This strategy is now known as “yellow journalism.” This approach was exemplified during the Spanish-American War in which the media encouraged Americans to go to war to assert their national pride. 6 The true 5 West, Darrel M. “The Rise and Fall of the Media Establishment”, <> Date Accessed: 7 December 2004 6 Ibid.

R u t g e r s Mo d e l C o n g r e s s 4 power and influence of the media started to become prevalent in the American political and social systems. 7 The rise in ability to report to an entire nation at once eventually led to the professionalism of the media industry. As one of his last few acts as a prominent member in the industry before retirement, Joseph Pulitzer started the first journalism school at Columbia University, eventually giving rise to the Objective Media Era (1920- 1970). 8 Prior to this time period, most of the power resided in the publishers and editors of each newspaper. However, there began a power shift from the publishers and editors to the reporters who argued that the American public had the right to be given fair, unbiased and untainted news reports, especially when it came to war, and government activity. Nevertheless, objectivity in reporting the news did not last very long because during the 1970s and 1980s, this balanced effort of reporting gave way to the Interpretative Media Era. During this time, reporters felt that it was not enough to just “report the news as it was,” but to understand the events and how they related back to the deeply rooted structures of the government and society. This interpretative stance of reporters gave rise to the emergence of political and social pundits. Journalists sought to become experts in the fields in which they were reporting, instead of objective purveyors of information. 9 While this resulted in an expanded coverage of news and opinions on important matters, it also led to a decline in the public trust and respect of the news industry. “[I]f media credibility reached the high point in the objective media stage, then the interpretative phase saw the start of a slow, but steady decline of public trust and confidence in the media.” 10 As the 20 th Century came to a close and 21 st Century technology drove newer forms of media, the fifth phase of the media evolution took shape. The rise of the Internet and tabloid press, the increase in talk radio and satellite technology, the horde of 7 Ibid 8 Ibid. 9 10 West, Darrel M. “The Rise and Fall of the Media Establishment”, <> Date Accessed: 7 December 2004.

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