Television journalism is often argued to be one of the, if not most, influential mediums of journalism throughout the 20th century. Not only did it bring about a whole new perspective on news, with film being a predominant method to convey news, but also gave news a new life. For the first time, the public could see national and international news directly as it happened. Television journalism altered history in a massive way, from the “living-room-war” of Vietnam, as Michael Arlen described it, to the first moments of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Watergate hearing, and space exploration. William A. Hachten said that people “felt these traumatic events deeply and viscerally because of what they saw and heard on the little screen.” This is a view I share.
The first true major role which television journalism fulfilled was bringing war into the living room. The Vietnam War, fought 1959-1975, was the first “television war” in a time when most of the general public was blind to the real happenings of other countries. With television crews in Vietnam capturing the true “horrors of war”, tension around the world grew as for the first time the violence could be seen. An example of this is when in August 1965, CBS aired a series of reports detailing and showing atrocities such as marines torching the houses of Vietnamese and captives being shot.
Whilst during the first few years of the war the televised reports were quite upbeat and reserved, it wasn’t until the final few years of Vietnam that death and gore became regular viewing on TV screens, and the human cost of war became apparent. The difference between other mediums of news and television was television’s ability to have an “up close and personal style”, which was massively important to its influence. Whilst others mediums, such as radio and print press, could describe what war was like, television could physically show the audience the views of the soldiers, the death and destruction, and the viewpoint from the Vietnamese side. As described by Jane Chapman and Marie Kinsey, television journalism “highlighted the role of the media as both reporter and agent of rebellion in various countries.”
The final turning point in the closing on the Vietnam War was in 1968, when Walter Cronkite presented a special report outlining that there was no way of winning the war without cost, and said that USA had to end the war. Following this report, President Lyndon Johnson purportedly knew that the tides were changing and that the United States would have to withdraw, and so to quote David Halberstam: “It was the first time in American history a war had been declared over by an anchorman.” Whilst television did not solely bring about the end of the Vietnam War, it certainly played major part in it.
It was around the time during the 60s-70s that television journalism was in its prime and had its largest influence. Newsreaders were celebrities in themselves, and the decline of other mediums, such as radio and print press, began. Partly why television was so influential in the 20th Century was because it could be distributed to a large amount of people easily, whilst showing them emotive, but quick-fire, scenes. Soon, televised news was being watched by a massive proportion of the population, but as commented by William A. Hachten “television news did not replace news on radio or in newspapers and news magazines; it supplemented them.”
Television news was influential in more ways than just helping conflicts; it changed the face of news around the world. It allowed politics and Politicians to be seen and heard far more easily than ever before, and Jane Chapman and Marie Kinsey argue that “President Kennedy, for instance, would probably not have been elected without it.” It turned the world of politics on its head, with the ability to show the public political debates and who they were voting for, as well as controversies such as the Watergate scandal, making television news not only a source of knowledge for the masses, but ultimately extremely influential.
Up until the 1980s there weren’t really many television reports that affected the whole world; that was until Michael Buerk accompanied by a BBC television crew travelled to Ethiopia to document the famine. Throughout 1984-85, famine in Ethiopia was rising as a record low amount of rain fell that year, meaning that the Ethiopian people had one million tonnes less rice than they needed to avoid starvation. The scenes that the television crew saw were described by Michael Buerk as “a biblical famine in the 20th Century” and “the closest thing to hell on Earth”.
This news documentary sent shockwaves through the United Kingdom, and also a backlash, as the general public did not realise the level of aid needed throughout Ethiopia. After the BBC aired Michael Buerk’s documentary, two celebrities Geldof and Ure decided that something had to be done, and created the now world famous Band Aid single.
Band Aid was a charity single set up by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure in the hopes of raising money to help the famine in Ethiopia, with the help of the days’ biggest pop stars. The single was a massive hit, selling one million copies in the first week alone, making it the fasting selling single in the UK to date. The success of this brought about Live Aid, possibly one of the most ambitious charity events in history.
Live Aid was made up of two concerts, one being in London, the other in Philadelphia. Broadcast around the world, with some of the biggest artists of the time performing, it was a massive success. It was watched by over 400 million people, raising around ï¿½40-50 million the same day, and around ï¿½150 million altogether since. This just shows the power and influence that television journalism can have; that one documentary can inspire individuals to take such great actions. Since this documentary, hard-hitting, in-depth reports have become something of a common occurrence in the televised news world.
Another way in which television journalism was influential in the 20th Century was to relate to children. News shows such as Newsround were made directly for kids, with interest stories specifically for children, but also included the day’s top stories. This has made a massive impact in the level of young people being involved in the news, and has also brought about another feature – interactive news, with viewers comments being a regular part of the show. Involving the public in the news was a massive step for news in general, as for the first time the public could express their views on current affairs
Overall, television journalism has been a massive part of the 20th Century. Not only does it inform the public of current affairs, but also educates and enlightens them to the happenings of the rest of the world. It has become an integral part of people’s lives, with documentaries and formatted news shows, such as GMTV and This Morning, being the staple of the country’s lives. Throughout the 20th Century, television journalism has become more and more essential in the day-to-day lives of the public. Whether it’s news or hard-hitting documentaries, the public has become ever more reliant on television journalism for knowledge of the happenings of the world, which radio and written word cannot portray as well.
Ultimately, what made television news so influential throughout the 20th Century was its ability to use different techniques to present the news. Whilst written and spoken word can be descriptive, they are also generally not emotive. Whereas television news can visually portray the news to the viewer; almost allowing them to be part of the news and express their opinions.
Depending on what view point you want to take, television journalism in the 21st Century could be either more or less influential. With the rise of the internet, with mediums such as blogs and social networking sites seemingly taking over, journalism is taking a massive step in another direction. Traditional television journalism, with television journalism actually being on the television, will most likely start to die down. But that doesn’t mean that it will die completely, as the amount of television journalism appearing on the internet will undoubtedly increase.
So, on the one hand typical TV journalism, which appears on the TV, will most likely die down and become less influential as time passes, but broadcast journalism on the internet will get bigger and more influential in the future. Television journalism will most likely start to get taken over by internet news, with televisions now able to access the internet which will make it that much easier to access news at any time. Not only that, but television journalism as a whole will slowly move to the internet, with websites such as Youtube being the main medium to share information. So overall, television journalism will carry on getting larger and more influential in the 21 Century, but just not in the typical sense.