In the modern digitalized world, media is one of the central sources of information. However, the given tool has always been important and played a significant role in the development of society and the formation of perspectives on particular issues. The power of media is evidenced by its ability to impact peoples worldviews and their attitudes to certain phenomena. For this reason, it has always been associated with the commercial and corporate interests of companies or individuals.
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The fact is that being a potent method to shape individuals attitudes to diverse issues, media has been sponsored by diverse agents and even governments with the primary aim to gather peoples support regarding contradictory decisions, solutions, or measures (Leung). At the same time, different means of media might experience pressure from organizations or individuals powerful enough to monitor the functioning of this institution through censorship or some mechanisms of financial pressure.
Finally, media has always tried to reflect existing peoples moods, attitudes, and preferences to remain popular and attract public attention. Regarding all these factors, investigation of multiple pieces of media in different periods of time might help to trace the evolution of perspectives on the particular issue, how public opinion was shaped, and what role capital, authorities, and corporations played in this process.
Media and Slavery
For instance, slavery has always been an ongoing issue for the USA. Thousands of slaves worked in plantations, fabrics, etc. However, in the 1860s, U.S. society turned against this stigma which resulted in its abolishment (Streitmatter 17). Media played a significant role in this process. The fact is that radical differences in economies peculiar to some states resulted in the appearance of two camps characterized by different perspectives on slavery and its future in the country (Streitmatter 17).
Industrialized Northern states did not feel the need for slave labor as their further evolution and wealth depended on the wide use of technologies. At the same time, the agrarian South developed due to the mass exploitation of involuntary servitude. In this regard, slaves were needed for the preservation of their wealth. That is why the appearance of the Abolition Movement contradicted their economic interests. It impacted the development of the movement in several ways. For instance, St. Louis Observer, an abolitionist newspaper created by Elijah Lovejoy, faced numerous obstacles and experienced pressure from the establishment press, which mobilized opposition to it (Streitmatter 18).
Finally, slavery advocates pushed Elijah from the state. This situation demonstrates how the economic interests of authorities impacted media that tried to promote values inappropriate for them. Elijah was killed by a crowd while trying to continue to publish his newspaper and demonstrate the sins of slavery; nobody was punished for it (Wells).
However, this death resulted in the empowerment of the abolitionists positions and the appearance of new African-American magazines, cultivating the idea of the unacceptable character of slavery. Experiencing significant pressure at the first stages of their development, these means of media attained success in shaping public opinion and turning America against slavery despite the opposition of rich planters and other authorities who lobbied slavery advocates. In such a way, newspapers like The Liberator or The North Star challenged the establishment press and managed to form a new attitude to slavery.
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Media and Feminism
Feminism and movements for women’s rights could be considered other significant issues that impacted the evolution of the USA. Today, these issues are central aspects of the U.S. social life and guarantee equal opportunities for men and women. However, in the early 1850s, at the first stages of the development of feminism, numerous attempts to depress this social movement were made, and media became the main tool used for this purpose.
For instance, newspapers attacked women who claimed their rights, accusing them of the complete disregard of their responsibilities at home, decreased attention devoted to children, inability to perform traditional roles, etc. (Streitmatter 35). Moreover, the bigger part of the media used the ironic and sarcastic tone while speaking about feminists to emphasize the ridiculous character of this movement and its facetiousness (Pogrebin).
The given harassment was organized by the authorities not willing to share their powers or lose control over finance (Mendes 87). That is why these agents used media as a potent tool to shape peoples opinions. However, feminists also realized the power of the press and started to open their own newspapers as a way to create an alternative method of communication with society (Pogrebin). In such a way, The Revolution, Womans Journal, and Womans Era attained significant success in promoting feminism by shaping peoples mentalities and altering their attitudes to the question.
Media and Corruption
Another issue that has always remained topical is corruption. Using power and authority for their own purposes, civil servants and officers enriched themselves and deteriorated the functioning of the state machine, the image of power, and the situation in the country in general. Especially difficult the situation was after the Civil war as the USA entered the phase of drastic changes (Streitmatter 45). For this reason, corruption could not remain unnoticed. Harpers Weekly and the New York Times were among the first to publish cartoons and articles blaming corrupt officials and bribe-takers (Streitmatter 45).
It is apparent that they faced serious opposition from the local authorities, which tried to conceal the scale of the problem. However, the activity of these pieces of media contributed to the improvement of the situation as using cartoons and words, they managed to provide people with real information about the corruption in power.
Media and War
At the end of the 19th century, the USA entered a new phase of its development characterized by imperialistic desires and movements (Streitmatter 60). The nation wanted to spread the area of its influence and demonstrate its growing power. For this reason, the majority of newspapers of that period supported these desires and moved in the same direction to ensure stable levels of popularity and increase their circulations (Streitmatter 60).
Additionally, media was used as a potent tool to shape peoples mentalities by boosting the power of the USA, justifying its claims to world dominance, and creating the basis for new interventions. For instance, American involvement in Cuba was supported by Pulitzer with the primary aim to increase the popularity of the press (Streitmatter 61). In such a way, media has always been used to provide citizens with the reasons for diverse interventions and attain their positive attitude to it.
Media and Ku Klux Klan
Ku Klux Klans activity was also described by diverse newspapers as they were not able to stand aside and disregard the emergence and development of one of the most powerful secret movements of the USA. In the 1920s the Klan became a real power in the state and acquired numerous followers even in some power structures (Streitmatter 90). For this reason, newspapers preferred either to support or to sidestep a problem. Thus, only the New York World, the Commercial Appeal, and the Montgomery adviser attacked the movement by demonstrating pieces of evidence proving its radicalism and violent character (Streitmatter 91). They managed to shape peoples attitude to the given phenomenon and severely damage the Klan.
Anti-Semitism and Media
Finally, the evolution of the attitude to Jews could also be traced using different pieces of media. The fact is that in the period from the 1930s to 1940s, U.S. society suffered from a spread of anti-Semitism (Streitmatter 105).
This group of the population became unwelcomed and unacceptable by numerous social institutions, establishments, universities, employers, etc. Society blamed Jews for the deterioration of the economic situation in the state and was sure that restrictions against them are fair (Streitmatter 105). However, the appearance of this belief and its cultivation could be connected with the activity of media, which created the basis for the rise of anti-Semitism. Many newspapers such as American Gentile, National American supported discrimination and proclaimed Jews to be the main enemy. In such a way, they shaped peoples mentalities and engaged society into discrimination and anti-Semitism.
Altogether, analyzing different events in the history of the USA, one can also admit a significant role media played in their coverage and presentation. Being a potent tool, it was used by authorities and powerful agents to suppress the development of particular movements by turning people against them. However, at the same time, media was used by abolitionists, feminists, and other activists to demonstrate their positions and condemn particular social stigmas. To a greater extent, they managed to attain success due to the medias ability to form people worldwide and promote certain issues.
Leung, Rebecca. “Battling Big Tobacco.” CBS. 2005. Web.
Mendes, Kaitlynn. “Framing Feminism: News Coverage of the Women’s Movement in British and American Newspapers, 1968–1982.” Social Movement Studies, vol. 10, no. 1, 2011, pp.81-98.
Pogrebin, Abigail. “How Do You Spell Ms.” New York Magazine. 2011. Web.
Streitmatter, Rodger. Mightier than the Sword: How the News Media Have Shaped American History. Routledge, 2015.
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Wells, Ida. “Lynch Law in America.” BlackPast.org. Web.