Topics in the News
ABC's Wide World of Sports
Premiering in April 1961 as a summer replacement series, ABC's Wide World of Sports later became the first year-round weekly sports series on network television. Choosing to show sporting events that were uncommon for television at the time—auto racing at Le Mans, soccer in Great Britain, track in the Soviet Union—ABC's Wide World of Sports was an immediate critical success that attracted little or no viewer support in its first season.
The man behind the show was executive producer Roone Arledge, who had joined ABC Sports as a field producer of NCAA Football in 1960. This assignment gave Arledge the idea of a "sports potpourri" to fill the network void when college football games were blacked out locally. ABC brass responded positively to the idea because, although initially the sporting events were to be taped and shown with a week's delay, commercial satellites were to be launched in the mid 1960s and the experience gained from producing ABC's Wide World of Sports would be...
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Blacks on Television
The civil rights struggles of the 1950s finally began to filter into the television industry during the 1960s. NBC had broadcast The Nat King Cole Show in 1956 and 1957, but southern stations refused to broad-cast it, and it was canceled. The new decade saw an increase in roles for black actors, such as the guest-star roles for a couple on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Rob Petrie mistakenly believes that his son, Richie, has been accidentally switched at birth and tracks down the couple he believes has his son. The couple turns out to be attractive, middle class, and black.
In 1965 NBC paired Robert Culp with black actor Bill Cosby in I Spy, an adventure-intrigue show. The easy rapport between Culp and Cosby and the relationship of Cosby's character to Culp's (Culp played a professional tennis star, and Cosby was his trainer-masseur) defused the potential for controversy. The first network show to star a single black character was Julia, which premiered on NBC on 17 September 1968, star-ring Diahann Carroll as a widowed nurse with a young son. Though it was one of the first shows to employ black writers, the show's plots did not accomplish much more than presenting white middle-class concerns with a black character. Despite criticisms by black critics of the show's lack of realism,...
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Corporation for Public Broadcasting
A National Beginning.
In 1966 there were 114 educational-television stations, up from 52 in 1961. But they remained struggling local stations with little money and almost no national, quality programming. In 1967 the tide began to turn with two events. The first was the start of the Public Broadcasting Laboratory (PBL), an experimental news and features broadcast funded by the Ford Foundation and broadcast on educational television for two hours on Sunday evenings. The second was the publication of Public Television: A Program for Action, a report by the Carnegie Commission on the future of educational television.
Commitment of Ford.
While the programming produced by the PBL was widely derided as boring and without any real signifigance, the project underscored the commitment of the Ford Foundation to public broad-casting. From 1951 to 1977 the Ford Foundation donated more than $292 million to public radio and television, helping to support stations and to fund programming.
Public Broadcasting Act of 1967.
President Lyndon B. Johnson used the Carnegie report as the basis for legislative proposals to create a national system of public broadcasting. The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 became law in November 1967. The most important part of the legislation created...
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Death of the Saturday Evening Post
When the Saturday Evening Post ceased publication with the 8 February 1969 issue, one of the most venerable institutions of American magazine publishing fell victim to the changing media landscape of the post-World War II era.
The Saturday Evening Post claimed ancestry from the 1729 founding by Benjamin Franklin of the Pennsylvania Gazette. The Saturday Evening Post was, for almost sixty years, the most successful general-interest weekly magazine in the United States. The magazine had first reached its position as a magazine leader under the editorship of George Horace Lorimer, who held that post from 1899 until 1937. During Lorimer's tenure the Saturday Evening Post published fiction by Harold Frederic, Ring Lardner, Jack London, Joseph Conrad, William Faulkner, Stephen Crane, Thomas Wolfe, James Branch Cabell, P. G. Wodehouse, Rudyard Kipling, William Dean Howells, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The mix of quality fiction, good reporting, and nonjingoistic Americanism made the Saturday Evening Post into the widely recognized voice of middle-class America. President Franklin Roosevelt was said to read the Saturday Evening Post when he wanted to find out what the middle class was thinking. In 1952 circulation was 4.2 million readers for the five-cent...
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Newspapers in the 1960s
Struggle and Decline.
The decade of the 1960s was one of continued struggle and decline for newspapers. In 1909 there were 689 cities in the United States that had competing daily newspapers; by 1963 that number had shrunk to 55. Among major cities that number was down to 20. Over 1,400 cities had only one newspaper or two papers owned by the same publisher. Chains such as Scripps-Howard, Hearst, Newhouse, Knight, and Cox bought up papers around the country, having the effect of making newspapers more alike editorially regardless of the competitive status. Also people began to move outside the cities to the suburbs, taking away circulation and targets of advertisers.
Newspapers in the 1950s and 1960s performed three functions for the public: they provided news information, they provided entertainment, and they were advertising vehicles. The decline of a competitive news environment was a product of the rise of television journalism, as network and local-affiliate news became the new competitive forces. Television obviously provided an entertainment medium more conducive to the general public. As an outlet for advertisers, the new vitality of radio along with television took away many of the advertisers the newspapers relied upon. In 1950 local radio had advertising revenues of $273 million; in 1965 this figure had increased...
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The purchase of Newsweek magazine by the Washington Post Company on 9 March 1961 created a formidable print-news company. The Washington Post, already powerful as the leading morning newspaper in the U.S. capital, bought the second most read newsmagazine in the country. In January 1961 Newsweek had a circulation of more than 1.4 million, second only to Henry Luce's Time.
Death of Astor.
Newsweek had been controlled by philanthropist Vincent Astor. On his death in 1959 his controlling 59 percent stock interest was transferred to the Astor Foundation, which soon began quietly to look for a buyer. The magazine had been founded in 1933 as News-Week. Astor had acquired his interest in 1937 through a merger with his magazine, Today.
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New York Review of Books
First published in February 1963 during a New York newspaper strike, the New York Review of Books was intended to fill the void left by the absence of the reviews usually published by The New York Times and the New York Herald Tribune. It was also intended as a corrective to the intellectually shallow commentary contained in newspaper reviews. As critic Edmund Wilson wrote in the New York Review of Books in September 1963, "The disappearance of the Times Sunday book section at the time of the printers' strike only made us realize it had never existed." The first issue of the journal was intended to be the only one, but after nearly one hundred thousand copies were sold, the backers decided to publish a second issue in May 1963. The success of the two issues convinced the journal's backers to continue publication semimonthly.
Jason Epstein, an editor at Random...
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Radio in the 1960s
The 1960s were a decade of change for radio. Having weathered the challenge of television in the 1950s, something that most observers said was un-likely, radio was growing as an industry in the 1960s, even if individual stations faced struggles.
But radio was no longer the national entertainment medium it had been in the 1930s and 1940s, playing network programs of comedy, drama, information, and music. Starting in 1948 with the advent of network television, the networks transferred many of their popular radio shows and their stars over to television. Jack Benny, Lucille Ball, Amos 'n' Andy, and dozens of other stars and shows ended up on the visual medium.
But radio survived and even prospered. In 1949 there were 80 million radios in the United States. In 1965 there were 228 million. Most of the growth was provided by a 1948 invention at Bell Laboratories, the transistor. This small electronic replacement for vacuum tubes provided the technology for the growth of a new market for radios. Radios in houses and in cars became smaller, better, and cheaper. By 1960 a typical AM/FM radio cost only thirty dollars; an AM-only radio cost fifteen dollars.
These two technologies, television and...
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On 10 July 1962 the international broadcasting of television signals came closer to reality with the launch of Telstar 1, a fifty-million-dollar communications satellite owned and operated by the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T). That same day a picture of an American flag flapping in the breeze was beamed from a television station in Andover, Maine, to Europe. Eleven days later a consortium of the three major television networks broad-cast a "picture album" of the United States—the Statue of Liberty, the Golden Gate Bridge, and a herd of buffalo grazing near Mount Rushmore—received by television broadcasters in Great Britain and the European Broad-cast Union. The Europeans transmitted pictures of the Roman coliseum, the Louvre, and the British Museum to the United States.
One year later, on 10 July 1963, CBS showed the potential uses of transatlantic broad-casts when it showed a program called Town Meeting of the World, featuring former president Dwight D, Eisenhower, European Common Market founder Jean Monnet, West German parliamentary leader Heinrich von Brentano, and former British prime minister Anthony Eden. Two weeks later the first synchronous-orbit satellite, in step with the rotation of earth, was launched.
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First Television Newsmagazine.
The first television newsmagazine show, 60 Minutes, premiered on CBS on 24 September 1968 as a bimonthly program in the Tuesday night at 10 P.M. slot. Its cohosts during its first years were veteran news reporters Harry Reasoner and Mike Wallace. The 60 Minutes format was the brainchild of CBS Evening News producer Don Hewitt, who saw the program as a "Life magazine of the air." Each hour-long show was divided into three twenty-minute segments, two handled by Wallace and one by Reasoner.
The interview subject was the primary segment type, with Wallace and Reasoner featuring during the first year talks with Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver, French-German student radical Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Attorney General John Mitchell, rock singer Janis Joplin, Supreme Court nominee Clement Haynsworth, and My Lai massacre participants Pvt. Paul Meadlo and Capt. Ernest Medina. Some of the segments were criticized as puff pieces, but others, including the show investigating My Lai, were hailed as television journalism at its best. More important, 60 Minutes showed the networks that news could be packaged as entertainment and sold to advertisers and the public.
The Decline of the Documentary.
The newsmagazine helped spell...
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Tom and Dick Smothers, two clean-cut, conservative-looking comedians, became the causes célèbres for civil libertarians in April 1969 when their television show The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was canceled by CBS, ostensibly because the Smotherses had failed to fulfill their contract obligations to provide entertainment that met the standards set by CBS. The reason put forth by the Smotherses and most independent ob-servers was censorship.
Risqué and Political.
The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour premiered on CBS on 5 February 1967 as a mid-season replacement. A Sunday-night show competing against the powerful Western Bonanza, the Smothers Brothers produced a pleasant surprise by placing often among the top thirty shows in weekly ratings. But the network censors were never happy with the brothers. Their humor was sometimes risqué and always political. The favorite target was President Johnson, and there were also drug references (which the censors at CBS were too staid to recognize), sexual innuendos, and humor at the expense of those who would censor art or stifle creativity.
According to the Smotherses, CBS had tampered with 75 percent of their material during the two years of their run. During the 1968-1969 television season the...
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Television Technology: Color and UHF
Quality and Growth.
The 1960s finally saw the resolution of two technical issues and problems that had plagued television since its early development: color broadcasting and ultrahigh frequency (UHF) stations. Their resolution led to an improvement in broadcast quality and growth in the number of television stations.
Color broadcasting was a problem left over from the debate over broadcast technical standards during World War II. CBS, which had no technical patents relating to black-and-white technology, pushed during the mid 1940s for a standard that would have called for color broadcasting, which CBS had developed, and a large number of stations on the UHF band. CBS was opposed by RCA, which had an interest in black-and-white broadcasting and the status quo in regard to the broadcasting band. Joining RCA were the manufacturers of black-and-white and very high frequency (VHF) television sets, who knew that after the war consumers would buy what was available without thought to techno-logical advance.
In 1945 the Federal Communications Commission decided that black-and-white television would be standard and that televisions would not be required to carry UHF tuners, effectively stifling that broadcasting frequency. UHF broadcasting would linger in its...
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Agnew, Spiro 1918-
VICE-PRESIDENT AND MEDIA CRITIC
On 13 November 1969 at 7:00 P.M. Vice-president Spiro Agnew made a speech carried live by the three net-works that lambasted those net-works. The impetus behind Agnew's speech was the press reaction, especially the television news reaction, to a speech on the Vietnam War by President Richard M. Nixon on 3 November 1969. In the speech Nixon called on the support of "the great silent majority of my fellow Americans," asking for their help in achieving his goal of ending the war in victory.
Agnew, in his speech, concentrated on the analysis following Nixon's speech, attacking it as "instant analysis and querulous criticism":
It was obvious that their minds were made up in advance.… One commentator twice contradicted the President's statement about the exchange of correspondence with Ho...
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Carson, Johnny 1925-
LATE-NIGHT SHOW HOST
Johnny Carson made the late-night NBC program The Tonight Show a television institution, far outpacing all competing shows in the ratings. Carson's comedie talents and ability to attract celebrity guests kept viewers tuned in to NBC.
The Tonight Show was the 1954 brainchild of NBC executive Pat Weaver, who had created The Today Show in 1952. The two pro-grams were meant to complement each other and to lock viewers to NBC from the earliest viewing hours to the latest. On 1 October Carson officially replaced the contentious Jack Paar as host of The Tonight Show.
Carson versus Paar.
During his five-year tenure Paar had made the show a moneymaker for NBC, but under Carson The Tonight Show was a blockbuster. By 1965 Carson had raised the audience to an average of 8.7 million nightly viewers, over 300,000 above Paar's peak. Sponsor revenues for the show reached $20 million in 1967, a $4 million increase over the highest billings during Paar's years....
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Cronkite, Walter 1916-
During the 1960s Walter Cronkite became the most respected television news-caster in the United States. As the news figure most associated with the biggest news stories of the 1960s—the Kennedy assassination, the Vietnam War, and the Apollo 11 moon landing—Cronkite was renowned for his honesty, character, and lack of affectation. In 1973 he was voted "the most trusted man in America."
After a wide-ranging career as a print and radio journalist that began in 1933, Cronkite became anchorman of the CBS Evening News on 16 April 1962. He oversaw the expansion of the CBS Evening News from fifteen minutes to thirty minutes on 2 September 1963, featuring an interview with President John F. Kennedy on the first half-hour show. On 22 November 1963 the most significant event in the history of television news to that time occurred: the assassination of President Kennedy.
Covering the Assassination.
The assassination was the event that marked the victory of...
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McLuhan, Marshall 1911-1980
MEDIA AND CULTURE THEORIST
Marshall McLuhan was the media guru of the 1960s. His controversial theories about the effect of changing media on culture and society made him into a media figure himself. Readers saw his ideas as a possible explanation of the social turmoil of the 1960s, and media executives pointed at his writings as a sign of their importance. While many of his theories have been dismissed as confused and confusing, his influence on thinking about media and culture was significant.
A New Kind of Science Fiction.
A Canadian, McLuhan was born in Edmonton, Alberta, on 21 July 1911. Early in his career he was a professor of English literature. Upon taking a job teaching in the United States, McLuhan became interested in popular culture and its effect on youth. In the United States he was "confronted with young Americans I was incapable of understanding. …I felt an urgent need to study their popular culture in order to get through." His first book on the media and culture, The Mechanical Bride: Folk-lore of Industrial Man (1951), was a collection...
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Minow, Newton 1926-
CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS
A Chicago lawyer well versed in communications issues, Newton Minow was appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on 10 January 1961 by President John F. Kennedy. He was sworn in on 2 March 1961 and immediately began to do battle with bad taste and manipulative programming.
A Vast Wasteland.
His speech to the National Association of Broadcasters in May 1961 set offa firestorm of controversy. His labeling of television programming as "a vast wasteland" angered network executives and pleased critics of television. In addition to the technical concerns of the FCC—license renewal, technology issues, and others—Minow made the improvement of the content of television and radio one of his main projects. While he had no statutory authority over content, Minow used the power of the commission to hold hearings to try and change the focus of programming from shallow entertainment to culture and education.
In February 1962 the FCC held a series of hearings on network programming, devoting a week each to the programming policies of CBS, NBC, and ABC. The first week of the hearings, with CBS executives, was not marked by many confrontations. The second week of...
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Morris, Willie 1934-
Willie Morris, at thirty-two years old, became the youngest editor in chief in the history of Harper's magazine on 1 July 1967. He replaced John Fischer, the man who hired him and brought him to New York from Texas in 1963. Harper's in the 1960s was suffering from competition with television. In 1966 the magazine had 277,000 readers and $1.8 million in revenues, figures which belied the problems faced by narrowly focused news and literary magazines during the 1960s. Though Harpers's had been revered and sustained by the literary elite, the magazine's owners and editors found that the traditional readership was not able to sustain Harper's financially.
The hiring of Morris was part of an editorial plan to bring the magazine more in line with the changing American society of the 1960s. Morris's background was certainly not that of the typical New York editor. He was born in 1934 in Yazoo City, Mississippi, and grew up with the discomfort associated with the racism of that society. After high school he went to the University of Texas at Austin. As editor of the college newspaper, the Daily Texan, Morris became a campus celebrity because of his activist stand, defending the right of the paper to comment on campus, local, state, and...
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Wenner, Jann 1946-
MAGAZINE OWNER, EDITOR, AND PUBLISHER
Jann Wenner was among the first entrepreneurs to realize the enormous commercial potential of the baby-boomer youth market of the 1960s. Born in 1946, Wenner was twenty when he started Rolling Stone magazine in 1967 to focus on the rock 'n' roll youth culture of the late 1960s.
Wenner's first experience as a journalist was at the University of California, Berkeley, where he wrote a music column for the campus newspaper. He also did reports on the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley for NBC. He dropped out of college after his junior year and wrote a music column for Sunday Ramparts, a weekend offshoot of the New Left magazine. After six months he borrowed seventy-five hundred dollars from a relative and started Rolling Stone with fifty-two-year-old San Francisco Examiner columnist Ralph Gleason.
The first biweekly issue appeared on 9 November 1967 and featured a cover portrait of John Lennon. The "Publisher's Statement" in the issue put forth the purpose of the magazine:
Rolling Stone is not just about music, but also about the things and attitudes that music embraces.… To de-scribe it any further would be...
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People in the News
In November 1969 Walter Annenberg sold the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News for $55 million. Annenberg, who owned TV Guide, Seventeen magazine, and the Daily Racing Form, sold the news-papers to escape a challenge to the renewal of his FCC license for WFIL television station in Philadelphia. He had been accused of having a virtual news monopoly in the city.
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz made their final appearance together in an I Love Lucy special on 1 April 1960. Their divorce became final on 1 May.
John Henry Faulk, a CBS radio personality, won his libel suit in June 1962 against a sponsor who accused him of Communist leanings. He filed the suit in 1957 with the help of Edward R. Murrow. The court awarded him $2.8 million.
Mai Goode became the first black network correspondent on 10 September 1962, covering the United Nations for ABC.
On assignment in Colombia in May 1967 for McCall's magazine, Lynda Bird Johnson, the daughter of the president, was involved in an incident with Colombian journalists. Two Colombian newsmen sued Johnson's Secret Service agents after having been attacked and beaten while approaching her at the Barranquilla air-port.
In May 1967 television star Lassie was...
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Best Dramatic Program: Playhouse 90 (CBS)
Best Variety Program: The Fabulous Fifties (CBS)
Best Comedy Program: The Art Carney Special (NBC)
Best News Program: The Huntley-Brinkley Report (NBC)
Best Public Service Series: The Twentieth Century (CBS)
Trustees Award: Frank Stanton (CBS)
Best Dramatic Program: Macbeth, Hallmark Hall of Fame (NBC)
Best Comedy Program: The Jack Benny Show (CBS)
Best Variety Show: Astaire Time (NBC)
Best Public Service Series: The Twentieth Century (CBS)
Best News Program: The Huntley-Brinkley Report (NBC)
Trustees Awards: National Educational Television and Joyce Hall, Hallmark Cards
Best Dramatic Program: The Defenders (NBC)
Best Comedy Series: The Bob Newhart Show (CBS)
Best Variety Show: The Garry Moore Show (CBS)
Best Public Service Series: David Brinkley's Journal (NBC)
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Franklin P. Adams, 78, newspaper columnist, in New York City on 23 February 1960.
Grade Allen, 58, actor and comedienne, in Hollywood, California, on 27 August 1964.
Peter Arno, 64, cartoonist, in Port Chester, New York, on 22 February 1968.
William Calhoun Baggs, 48, editor of the Miami News, in Miami, Florida, on 7 January 1969.
Hugh Baillie, 75, newspaperman, in La Jolla, California, on 1 March 1966.
Charles Bickford, 78, actor, in Hollywood, California, on 9 November 1967.
John Mason Brown, 68, theater critic for the Saturday Review of Literature, in New York City on 16 March 1969.
Whittaker Chambers, 60, journalist and spy, in Westminster, Maryland, on 9 July 1961.
Dickie Chappelle, 47, war correspondent and photographer, in South Vietnam on 4 November 1965.
Sir William Connor, 57, British newspaper columnist, in London, England, on 6 April 1967.
Thomas Costain, 80, newspaper columnist and novelist, in New York City on 8 October 1965.
Russel Crouse, 73, playwright and magazine editor, in New York City on 3 April 1966.
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Warren Kendall Agee, ed., Mass Media in a Free Society (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1969);
Michael J. Arlen, The Living-Room War (New York: Viking, 1969);
Harry Bannister, The Education of a Broadcaster (New York: Simon &, Schuster, 1965);
Erik Barnouw, A History of Broadcasting in the United States, 3 volumes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1966-1970);
Marvin Barrett, Survey of Broadcast Journalism, 1968-1969 (New York: Grossett & Dunlap, 1969);
Apollinaris M. Baumgartner, Catholic Journalism (New York: AMS Press, 1967);
Edward Bliss, Jr., ed., In Search of Light: The Broadcasts of Edward R. Murrow, 1938-1961 (New York: Knopf, 1967);
William A. Bluem, A Documentary in American Television: Form, Function, Method (New York: Hastings House, 1965);
Carnegie Commission of Educational Television, Public Television: A Program for Action (New York: Carnegie Corporation, 1967);
Edward W. Chester, Radio, Television and American Politics (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1969);
John Henry Faulk, Fear on Trial (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1964);
Fred W. Friendly, Due to...
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Important Events in the Media, 1960–1969
- Daytime radio serials and most other network radio programming end, leaving news and special events coverage.
- On February 10, television host Jack Paar's late night talk show is cut off by NBC censors after he tells a joke they consider to be in poor taste. The next night, Paar walks off the show to protest the censorship. He does not return to the air until March 7.
- On May 19, radio disc jockey Alan Freed, who coined the term "rock 'n roll," is arrested for taking money to play certain records on his program. Famous TV disc jockey Dick Clark denies accepting such bribes. But the "payola scandal" reaches national proportions.
- On June 1, the National Council of Churches issues a report assailing television's preoccupation with sex and violence.
- On September 26, the largest television audience yet measured watches the first of four debates between presidential candidates Vice-president Richard Nixon and Senator John F. Kennedy. The power of television is demonstrated by polls showing that most who heard the debate on radio called it a draw. But television viewers, watching the vigorous, self-confident Kennedy and the haggard vice president, gave the edge to the senator.
- On November 25, CBS airs a one-hour news program called Harvest of Shame, documenting the working and...
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