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Media ……. my last entry at FDL

Nurse listening to a radio during World War II John Atherton – Flickr creative commons

From the very first the media – newspapers and such – has been first and foremost about selling stuff. And that means advertising. And the more people read these first newspapers and then magazines, the more advertising could be sold and the more could be charged for it. It’s as simple as that.

Even as the technology improved this aspect of the media – in this country at least – has not changed. And to get people to read and in the case of broadcasting watch and/or listen, it had to be entertaining. Even the advertising itself. Secondary to this – in the case of newspapers at least – to present the views and beliefs of the publisher. Political, social, economic and [in some cases] religious. In the case of broadcasting – radio and television – almost not at all. William S. Paley put CBS news at the forefront in the late 1930s just before WWII with the likes of Charles Collingwood, William L. Shirer, Eric Sevareid,[4] John Charles Daly, Joseph C. Harsch[2]:501 Cecil Brown, Elmer Davis, Quincy Howe, H. V. Kaltenborn and Robert Trout.[5], then Edward R. Morrow. All top notch journalists and experienced. He was the first one to do so. But even he knew this “News” division had to attract listeners and viewers, so they also had to be able to present the news stories in an entertaining fashion.

From the first “News” had to be entertaining as well as informative and attract listeners and then viewers. There has been little if any difference between the media in this country and the itinerant snake oil salesmen of old. With products hocked of equally questionable use and quality. Maybe less so.

The cardinal rule though in broadcasting was not to air anything that might alienate any white males, since they had the money. So everyone – not just minorities – were presented as stereotypes, even the white males themselves. Always well dressed and well spoken. Even on the news.

Madison Av. demographics ruled the day, for they were the ones who paid. If Madison Av. thought it would be offensive to any one group – particularly white – if simply did not get on. The media in this country always followed, if never lead. Why minorities did not have their own shows until it was determined that a majority of whites would accept them as appearing as near equals. Why Vietnam reporting did not become serious until the majority of whites became disenchanted with it. Why people and entertainers critical of the current establishment rarely, if ever got on. Pete Seager, Phil Ochs, Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl. Why The Smothers Brothers got cancelled. Why the biggest and most popular entertainer of the 1950s could not get sponsors for a show. So Nat King Cole had to fund his own show. Having a black man have his own show would offend white bigots and most whites were [and still are] bigots.

Why Walter Cronkite took a major risk delving into Watergate when he did. These days serious journalists simply do not get on the air. The closest you can get is on HBO or The Comedy Channel. Cable only. Most Website blogs are generally “Preaching to the converted”.

The media rarely showed or told the truth. It showed what white people wanted to see, which generally was a fantasy version of life. Where all the women are strong, all the men good looking and all the children well behaved and above average.

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