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Refocusing America: American Society Through the Camera's Lens, 1945-2000
Unformatted Document Text:  As student activist Jerry Rubin stated, “Language does not radicalize people—what changes people is the emotional involvement of action.” 25 Mirroring societal transformations, photographs depicted critical events and persons introduced by `adversary culture,’ situating them within the public arena. The impact of these emergent issues is crucial not only in understanding trends throughout the media writ large, but also the effects these issues had upon journalists themselves, who were as prone to the changing cultural tides as anyone else. Journalists, after all, are individuals. Because of their intimate connections to the government as both citizens and professionals, journalists, as Michael Schudson suggests, were perhaps more deeply affected than most by these cultural changes. Regardless of the normative evaluations one wishes to impose upon the period, society, culture, and politics had indeed been transformed—as was manifest in the Times’s shifting use of visual imagery. Competing Media Compounding the pressures exerted by a changing American culture and advanced technology was print media’s competition. During William White’s presentation in 1943, the picture editor declared: I’ve heard many editors beefing about radio. Many of them have more or less reluctantly established tie-ups with it. We have, too. But the amazing part of it all is that newspapers can give the public something that radio can’t, and many of them scorn to take advantage of the opportunity… the radio cannot give the public pictures. 26 The absence of the visual in radio made the radio a supplement to print media, not a replacement. The television’s rise in prominence, however, posed a more momentous threat in the eyes of many top editors, though the fundamental arguments remained the same. As the content of photography shifted away from hard to soft news, the television was gaining popularity and viability as a vehicle of news dissemination. Television moved from 6 percent penetration of American homes to 76 percent between 1949 and 1956, ousting newspapers from their historic station as the sole purveyors of news. Americans watched approximately six hours of television a day—six fewer hours they could spend 25 David Farber, Chicago, 1968 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994) 20.

Authors: Maurantonio, Nicole.
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background image
As student activist Jerry Rubin stated, “Language does not radicalize people—what changes
people is the emotional involvement of action.”
25
Mirroring societal transformations, photographs
depicted critical events and persons introduced by `adversary culture,’ situating them within the public
arena.
The impact of these emergent issues is crucial not only in understanding trends throughout the
media writ large, but also the effects these issues had upon journalists themselves, who were as prone to
the changing cultural tides as anyone else. Journalists, after all, are individuals. Because of their intimate
connections to the government as both citizens and professionals, journalists, as Michael Schudson
suggests, were perhaps more deeply affected than most by these cultural changes.
Regardless of the normative evaluations one wishes to impose upon the period, society, culture,
and politics had indeed been transformed—as was manifest in the Times’s shifting use of visual imagery.
Competing Media
Compounding the pressures exerted by a changing American culture and advanced technology
was print media’s competition.
During William White’s presentation in 1943, the picture editor declared:
I’ve heard many editors beefing about radio. Many of them have more or less reluctantly
established tie-ups with it. We have, too. But the amazing part of it all is that
newspapers can give the public something that radio can’t, and many of them scorn to
take advantage of the opportunity… the radio cannot give the public pictures.
26
The absence of the visual in radio made the radio a supplement to print media, not a replacement.
The television’s rise in prominence, however, posed a more momentous threat in the eyes of
many top editors, though the fundamental arguments remained the same. As the content of photography
shifted away from hard to soft news, the television was gaining popularity and viability as a vehicle of
news dissemination. Television moved from 6 percent penetration of American homes to 76 percent
between 1949 and 1956, ousting newspapers from their historic station as the sole purveyors of news.
Americans watched approximately six hours of television a day—six fewer hours they could spend
25
David Farber, Chicago, 1968 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994) 20.


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