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Refocusing America: American Society Through the Camera's Lens, 1945-2000
Unformatted Document Text:  `New’ Journalism and Social Circumstances While technological advances undoubtedly constituted elements of change, technology is by no means the only window into explaining the varying quantity and quality of photographs throughout the post-war era. It is highly unlikely that improvements would have been sought so enthusiastically had photography not introduced a new dimension into news presentation. The `ultimate eyewitness’ photographs of the progressive era, as Vicki Goldberg labels them, and mentioned briefly in my discussion of the history of photojournalism, raised social consciousness, alerting the public to prevailing inequities. While the social and cultural climate in the United States invariably changed as time progressed, the inherent value of photography in communicating dominant themes in American life did not. The tumultuous decades of the 1960s and 1970s prove a case in point. Characterized by social and political turmoil, this period revealed the deterioration of the Cold War consensual paradigm that typified post-World War II America. The ideologies that epitomized the post-war 1940s and 1950s crumbled, and gaps between the races grew. The integration of blacks into the nation’s political and economic life, feminism, as well as the meaning of the war in Vietnam were all issues occupying and subsequently dividing Americans. The credibility gap widened, and the New Deal majority disintegrated. America was engaged in what E.J. Dionne, Jr. called a “cultural civil war.” In response to changing cultural tides, newspapers welcomed more critical journalistic perspectives, acknowledging the emergence of a `new journalism’, which, according to Nat Hentoff, was “powered by feeling as well as intellect.” 19 This `new,’ highly interpretive form of journalism, exposing the failings of institutions as well as individuals, sharply contrasted the `straight-jacketed’ journalism of the past, which pertained almost exclusively to the who, what, where, and when, leaving the how and why unattended. Deemed monotonous and restrictive, the `straight’ news archetype was abandoned in favor of what Max Frankel, Washington bureau chief of the New York Times throughout the 1960s, called 18 Parrish 343.

Authors: Maurantonio, Nicole.
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background image
`New’ Journalism and
Social Circumstances
While technological advances undoubtedly constituted elements of change, technology is by no
means the only window into explaining the varying quantity and quality of photographs throughout the
post-war era. It is highly unlikely that improvements would have been sought so enthusiastically had
photography not introduced a new dimension into news presentation.
The `ultimate eyewitness’ photographs of the progressive era, as Vicki Goldberg labels them, and
mentioned briefly in my discussion of the history of photojournalism, raised social consciousness,
alerting the public to prevailing inequities. While the social and cultural climate in the United States
invariably changed as time progressed, the inherent value of photography in communicating dominant
themes in American life did not.
The tumultuous decades of the 1960s and 1970s prove a case in point. Characterized by social and
political turmoil, this period revealed the deterioration of the Cold War consensual paradigm that
typified post-World War II America. The ideologies that epitomized the post-war 1940s and 1950s
crumbled, and gaps between the races grew. The integration of blacks into the nation’s political and
economic life, feminism, as well as the meaning of the war in Vietnam were all issues occupying and
subsequently dividing Americans. The credibility gap widened, and the New Deal majority
disintegrated. America was engaged in what E.J. Dionne, Jr. called a “cultural civil war.”
In response to changing cultural tides, newspapers welcomed more critical journalistic
perspectives, acknowledging the emergence of a `new journalism’, which, according to Nat Hentoff, was
“powered by feeling as well as intellect.”
19
This `new,’ highly interpretive form of journalism, exposing
the failings of institutions as well as individuals, sharply contrasted the `straight-jacketed’ journalism of
the past, which pertained almost exclusively to the who, what, where, and when, leaving the how and
why unattended. Deemed monotonous and restrictive, the `straight’ news archetype was abandoned in
favor of what Max Frankel, Washington bureau chief of the New York Times throughout the 1960s, called
18
Parrish 343.


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