Media Response To National Crises Essay, Research Paper
During the first half of the 20th Century the nation and the media had to face
some of the gravest crises in modern history. Media responses to these crises suggest the
basic questions about the relationship between the media and modern society. In a final
analysis the media during the national crisis of 1917-1945 should be judged as a
constructive force for combating immense national threats to democracy. Most of the
media?s actions demonstrate constructive patriotism.
World War I was a major crises for this nation and led to media coverage and
foreign correspondence like never before. When the United States entered the war the
CPI was formed which coordinated the media and war effort. Their job was to inform
and influence the press. The information was usually accurate but it is easy to see how
the CPI could use the press to further the American war effort. The CPI had newspaper
editors voluntarily censor their material according to the CPI?s guidelines of material that
should be kept secret. Since the press supported the war, they cooperated with the CPI.
Even though newspapers had information the public would be interested in, they would
censor that information because they believed in the overall goal of furthering the war
effort, not giving information to the enemy, and mobilizing public support for the war.
The same is true for the Great Depression.
During the Great Depression President Hoover had asked the press to use caution
and not to make matters worse. It is said that newspapers ?did not need the nudge?
(Sloan, Startt, 324). Instead of reporting on specific matters about the economy or
political action, newspapers published happier stories as not to upset their readers. This
was an effort that newspapers thought was for the common good. By not upsetting or
alarming their readers, widespread panic would not happen. Media during the Great
Depression is another example of how the media curtailed themselves and published
stories which they believed would better serve the American cause. They would limit
emotion and not upset people. The New Deal brought on more patriotic press reporting.
President Franklin Roosevelt realized the value of the press, so he set out to win
their favor. He interacted much more with the media and radio trying to get his ideas
across. Much like the efforts in World War I a lot of news information about the New
Deal and FDR was received through a central information distribution center created by
Roosevelt?s press secretary. The press was a willing participant in this and it?s easy to
see the problem this could create. Obviously the material will be favorably slanted
towards FDR, and as such the press is furthering the patriotic cause of the government.
In World War II we see a reoccurrence of some of the press manipulation we saw in
World War I.
Even before W.W.II the press at the urge of the government censored its own
material. Shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor the Office of Censorship was created
by FDR. For the most part the press cooperated. The Office of War Information was in
charge of publicity and information about the war. The press went further than just
reporting the war. They shaped public opinion and patriotism by their stories. By
voluntarily cooperating with government measures during the war, the press was
furthering the patriotic cause, and objectivity of news reporting was being lost.
All of the information learned about the media role in the national crises from
1917-1945 show that the media had a far greater goal than just reporting the facts. They
saw themselves as a major force that could combat national threats to democracy. They
were willing to suspend journalistic standards as we see them to further the American
cause. This was clearly evident during W.W.I and W.W.II. They printed and covered
what they thought was better for the American good. They also printed emotional stories
designed to get support for the American war effort. During the Great Depression the
media ignored some of the issues of this economic crises and concentrated instead on
happier stories, so they would not alarm or upset readers. Their goal was to keep
America from panicking and hopefully the economy would get back on track. If this
nation found a way to break free from British regulations before the Revolution, we
could have found a way to report objective information about the war. However, this was
not the intention of the media. Through their actions during American crises we see that
they had a far greater goal. Therefor the only conclusion is that the media were in fact
constructive patriots during these crises.