How did the advent of mass usage of the media influence and document the Great Depression?
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The influence that the media has on any era is very difficult to quantify and describe. It is easy to see how the media documents an era. It is less easy to determine exactly how and when it goes from documenting an era to shaping it.
The media always documents eras. Newspapers and other media (in the 1930s, radio was the major new medium) show what was happening at a given time. In the 1930s, there was also widespread dissemination of photographs such as those of Dorothea Lange. In these ways, the media reported and documented what was happening.
It is harder to know just how much the media actually shaped the Depression. Clearly, the media did not cause the Depression. It also did not cause the New Deal. Moreover, different aspects of the media would have tended to shape the Depression in different ways.
For example, the newspapers were strongly anti-Roosevelt. They were typically owned and operated by rich conservatives. These people felt that the New Deal was an example of creeping socialism and they tried to resist it. By contrast, radio dramas tended to be pro-New Deal. They tended to portray evil plutocrats as the villains. This would have shaped people’s attitudes in a pro-New Deal direction.
Thus, it is very hard to quantify the impact of the media on the New Deal. The media pushed and pulled at its audience in different directions and it is hard to know what, if any, net influence it had.
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