I Media Main I Media by Decade I Media by Genre I Media Timeline I
Tabloids, Radio and Propaganda
Newspapers and magazines dominated the media in the second decade of the 20th century. Due to World War 1, the public looked for news they could trust in these sources. The war changed the relationship between the press, the public and the government. Military censorship was necessary for national security, leading to debates over the press concealing facts. Tabloid or "jazz journalism", defined by its sensationalistic approach and emphasis on scandal to sell newspapers, along with radio furthered the spread of media in America.
Propaganda is the "systematic propagation of a doctrine or cause or of information reflecting the views of and interests of those people advocating such a doctrine or cause". The media has been an ideal tool for propaganda. In Russia, Vladimir Lenin, founder of the Russian Communist Party or Bolsheviks, successfully launched a revolution through an illegally produced newspaper, Pravda, to incite change. Pravda was first produced in 1908, Austria, and only legalized in Russia in 1912, after a wave of strikes. It served as the Party's propaganda organ for decades following the Bolsheviks' victory in their revolution and the overthrowing of Czar Nicholas II. After Russia adopted democracy in the late 1980s, Pravda's readership dwindled, but it continues to be published today.
During World War II, President Wilson of the USA, having witnessed the power of the press in Russia, did not risk dissention in America. A week after America's declaration of war in May 1915, the president created the Committee on Public Information. Its purpose was to convey facts about the war to the press, and coordinate the propaganda effort to encourage citizens to support the war. In addition to massive public relations, Wilson also suppressed media considered to be against the American war cause. In October 1917, the Censorship Board was established to control news about the war. It also gave war correspondents more freedom to report from the frontlines.
By the 1910s, industralization and urbanization led to the creation of more standardized newspapers. Newspaper chains were continuously being formed, sharing news stories between them. Muckraking (refer to 1900s) was still prominent in journalism. Jazz journalism or tabloid journalism emerged as a result of the war. It served to alleviate stress and pressure on the public. Tabloids were characterised by their human interest stories and blurbs and their extensive use of sensational photographs. Such publications were targeted at those who previously had not read newspapers. The tabloids' focus on sex, crime and entertainment fit in with the atmosphere at the beginning of the Roaring Twenties. In order to stay competitive, more was invested in printing technology. Monotype and Linotype machines revolutionised the industry in the 1910s by having automatic line justification and good character spacing.
By 1910, narrative films became the most popular type of film. These movies told stories that lead to happy endings, and had average lengths of between one to two hours, usually 90 minutes. Even the great silent comedians, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, were having their antics written into full length stories. Stars like Mary Pickford, Rudolf Valentino, Gloria Swanson and Douglas Fairbanks became famous, while directors made a name for themselves, like D.W. Griffith who directed the 1915 classic, The Birth of a Nation. Movies had become a big business.
In the USA, large companies started buying production studios to film in, national distribution networks to circulate their movies, and chains of the biggest and best cinemas to exhibit their movies. From 1915 onwards, American film production was based at big studios in Hollywood, a surburb of Los Angeles, on the west coast of USA.
Publications were increasingly being supported by advertising rather than circulation. The concept of "consideration" arose with publishers trying to balance the advertisers' interests while still presenting informative and necessary news accounts. Publishers had to consider the effect articles would have on their advertisers. They arranged layouts to detract from possible connection of stories to products or even postponed stories to avoid conflict of interests. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), set up in 1914, was an independent US agency created to keep competition fair and safe. Its duties included enforcing anti-trust laws, preventing false and deceptive advertising, and gathering data about business conditions for Congress and the public. The FTC was especially dedicated to enforcing truth in advertising. It would substantiate the case for requiring health warnings on products such as cigerrettes and liquor later in the 20th century.
During World War 1 all use of wireless transmission was under government control. The need to reduce interference during voice transmission furthered research into the development of the radio. David Sarnoff and the American Marconi Company (AMC) radio music box made the radio a household item. The power of radio to relay information across the airwaves at incomparable speed was discovered by accident. Sarnoff, while working for Marconi Wireless Company in 1912, picked up distress signals from the sinking S.S. Titanic. Marconi immediately conveyed the story to the newspapers. This aided the rescue effort by being able to respond quickly, and dramatically decreased the usual "lag time" or the time it took for the report to reach the press.