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Refocusing America: American Society Through the Camera's Lens, 1945-2000
Unformatted Document Text:  It is somewhat ironic that Kennedy would comment on the force of the photo, considering images of his assassination marked the inevitable interaction between stills and television coverage. After Kennedy’s assassination the role of the television in communicating information to the public was paramount. For the four days following the Kennedy incident, television became the primary medium of news dissemination, as Americans remained glued to their television sets for minute-to-minute coverage of the national tragedy. Newspapers everywhere responded, providing extended coverage of subsequent events. On November 23, 1963 the New York Times allotted its first sixteen pages to coverage of the assassination. An unprecedented number of photographs, assembled in photo essays and montages, appeared. The Times had to respond to its competition somehow. Politics Before discussing the precise relationship between politics and the usage of visual imagery in the Times, it is useful to address a question that continues to preoccupy scholars of the media: What is the proper function of the media within the political sphere? Is it the media’s role to cultivate a politically informed American citizenry—Michael Schudson’s “Good Citizen”? While this may have been the case in the nineteenth century, when newspapers sustained the opposition between Republicans and Democrats by cementing strong partisan ties, during the latter part of the twentieth century, when partisanship was on the decline and the two-party system deteriorating rapidly, the answer is less equivocal. For scholars such as Robert Entman and Daniel Hallin, however, the answer is an unequivocal `yes.’ Framing his argument for the journalist as both information supplier and political ideologist within the context of Jürgen Habermas’ understanding of the public sphere, Hallin suggests the inextricable link between the media and `the state.’ 34 Entman would undoubtedly agree, with the caveat that the press has lacked the capacity to properly marshal its authority to “serve democratic citizenship and promote government accountability as free press ideals demand.” 35 34 Hallin 1-5. 35 Robert M. Entman, Democracy Without Citizens : Media and the Decay of American Politics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984) 3.

Authors: Maurantonio, Nicole.
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background image
It is somewhat ironic that Kennedy would comment on the force of the photo, considering images
of his assassination marked the inevitable interaction between stills and television coverage. After
Kennedy’s assassination the role of the television in communicating information to the public was
paramount. For the four days following the Kennedy incident, television became the primary medium of
news dissemination, as Americans remained glued to their television sets for minute-to-minute coverage
of the national tragedy. Newspapers everywhere responded, providing extended coverage of subsequent
events. On November 23, 1963 the New York Times allotted its first sixteen pages to coverage of the
assassination. An unprecedented number of photographs, assembled in photo essays and montages,
appeared. The Times had to respond to its competition somehow.
Politics
Before discussing the precise relationship between politics and the usage of visual imagery in the
Times, it is useful to address a question that continues to preoccupy scholars of the media: What is the
proper function of the media within the political sphere? Is it the media’s role to cultivate a politically
informed American citizenry—Michael Schudson’s “Good Citizen”? While this may have been the case in
the nineteenth century, when newspapers sustained the opposition between Republicans and Democrats
by cementing strong partisan ties, during the latter part of the twentieth century, when partisanship was
on the decline and the two-party system deteriorating rapidly, the answer is less equivocal.
For scholars such as Robert Entman and Daniel Hallin, however, the answer is an unequivocal
`yes.’ Framing his argument for the journalist as both information supplier and political ideologist within
the context of Jürgen Habermas’ understanding of the public sphere, Hallin suggests the inextricable link
between the media and `the state.’
34
Entman would undoubtedly agree, with the caveat that the press has
lacked the capacity to properly marshal its authority to “serve democratic citizenship and promote
government accountability as free press ideals demand.”
35
34
Hallin 1-5.
35
Robert M. Entman, Democracy Without Citizens : Media and the Decay of American Politics (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1984) 3.


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