By: Newton Minow
Date: May 9, 1961
Source: Minow, Newton. "Television and the Public Interest." Speech to the National Association of Broadcasters. May 9, 1961. Reprinted online at ; website home page: http://www.janda.org (accessed April 7, 2003).
About the Author: Newton Minow (1926–) was the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from 1961 to 1963. He served on the boards of CBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In 1987, he became the director of the Annenberg Center for Communications in Washington.
Newton Minow had worked in the Illinois state administration during Adlai Stevenson's governorship and was a leading figure in the governor's campaigns for president in 1952 and 1956. During these years, he became known to the Kennedy circle, and in 1960 he worked on the Kennedy campaign. It was no surprise, then, when Kennedy nominated Minow to the post of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman.
What was a surprise, however, was how Minow became one of the principal figures in overseeing the new administration's domestic initiatives. He decided to challenge the heads of the major television networks (ABC, NBC, and CBS) to...
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"And Here's Johnny …"
Date: February 12, 1962
Source: "And Here's Johnny …" Newsweek, February 12, 1962, 80.
About the Publication: Newsweek, a popular weekly news-magazine, along with hard news and analysis included short unsigned articles reporting on developments in the entertainment industry.
The Tonight Show began in 1951 in Los Angeles as a radio show starring Steve Allen. Allen and the show made the jump both to television and to New York City in 1954. After two-and-a-half years, Allen was replaced as host by Jack Paar. The show aired from 11:15 P.M. to 1:00 A.M. with several million viewers watching every night. When Jack Paar announced his retirement, he recommended Johnny Carson as his replacement. Carson was at first reluctant to give up his own successful show in order to replace a legend. When he finally did consent to take over the show, ABC would not release him from his contract, so NBC would have to use guest hosts for the six months at the risk of frittering away the high ratings earned by Paar. NBC took the chance, and this delaying tactic turned into an effective marketing ploy for the show. America grew fascinated with the comic for whom NBC was willing to wait....
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"From Clown to Hero"
By: John Horn
Date: December 15, 1963
Source: Horn, John. "From Clown to Hero." New York Herald Tribune, December 15, 1963. Reprinted in "What Was Seen and Read. Television: a Transformation." Columbia Journalism Review, Winter 1964, 18–19.
On November 22, 1963, at 12:30 P.M. central standard time, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while riding in an open motorcade in Dallas, Texas. Kennedy was killed instantly; he was pronounced dead by officials at 1:00 P.M. Yet the American people did not learn about this historic tragedy by turning on their televisions. Most people heard about the assassination from friends or on the radio. Television news reporting from the site of live events hardly existed. There were no immediate pictures of the actual assassination, and the technology didn't exist to get good images of the scene on the air quickly. By the time television had some usable footage of the event, most of America had gone to sleep. But within hours, television began to intrude on the events in a surprising way. Lee Harvey Oswald, a twenty-four-year-old Dallas resident, was arrested as a suspect in the murder of a Dallas policeman and was subsequently charged with Kennedy's murder. On Sunday, while he was being...
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"Television and the Feminine Mystique"
By: Betty Friedan
Date: February 1–8, 1964
Source: Friedan, Betty. "Television and the Feminine Mystique." TV Guide, February 1–8, 1964, 273–275.
About the Author: Betty Friedan (1921–) was born Betty Goldstein. She graduated from Smith College in 1942 and married Carl Friedan in 1947. After publishing the revolutionary book The Feminine Mystique (1963) about American society's treatment of women, she became a leader of the women's liberation movement. She cofounded the National Organization for Women (NOW) and spearheaded the movement for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
When Betty Friedan's book The Feminine Mystique appeared in 1963, it exposed a cluster of myths about the American woman that had built up during the postwar years by social scientists, psychologists, educators, and marriage counselors. The "mystique" involved a definition of woman solely in terms of her roles as "wife, mother, love object, dishwasher, and general server of [her man's] physical needs." Friedan's book helped debunk the notion that women found fulfillment through "sexual passivity, loving service of husband and children, and dependence on men for all decisions in the world outside the...
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"Winds of Change for Newspapers"
By: U.S. News & World Report
Date: April 25, 1966
Source: "Winds of Change for Newspapers." U.S. News & World Report, April 25, 1966, 67–69.
About the Publication: U.S. News & World Report was and still is one of the three major weekly news magazines. It regularly reports on developments in other news media such as television and newspapers.
Big-city newspapers were in decline in the 1960s. There were many causes for this, including economic expansion, population movement, the spread of higher education, and a revival in the American cinema. Suburbanization and the resultant dependence on personal cars to travel to work meant that fewer commuters were reading a newspaper on the bus or subway. Further, by the 1960s virtually every American home contained a television set, which provided news easily, instantaneously, and with compelling visuals.
It was in the large metropolitan areas with their high-circulation dailies and Sunday editions that the impact of these changes was most evident. While the population of the United States was going up, the number of large daily newspapers in the big cities was going down. But the comparative decline of the great...
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"A Dialogue—Marshall McLuhan and Gerald Emanuel Stearn"
By: Marshall McLuhan and Gerald E. Stearn
Date: June 1967
Source: Encounter, June 1967. Reprinted in Stearn, Gerald Emanuel, ed. "A Dialogue—Marshall McLuhan and Gerald Emanuel Stearn." McLuhan: Hot and Cool. New York: Dial, 1967, 280–286, 287–291.
About the Author: Marshall McLuhan (1911–1980) was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, studied at Cambridge University, and taught for many years at St. Michael's College at the University of Toronto. His insight that "the medium is the message" made him famous during the 1960s and 1970s.
In the 1960s, the most celebrated prophet of the electronic age and the death of book literacy was Marshall McLuhan, an eminent scholar who received his doctorate in English literature from Cambridge University. According to a Newsweek interview (March 6, 1967), it was during his early days of teaching that he first engaged with popular culture and the mass media. "I was confronted with young Americans I was incapable of understanding." He vowed to "get through" to them by studying their movies, radio programs and the advertisements aimed at them. The resulting book, The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man, was an attack on the "pressures" that...
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"We Are Mired in Stalemate"
By: Walter Cronkite Jr.
Date: February 27, 1968
Source: Cronkite, Walter. "We Are Mired in Stalemate" news broadcast. CBS television, February 27, 1968. Reprinted online at http://www.richmond.edu/~ebolt/history398/Cronkit_1968.html; website home page: (accessed April 8, 2003).
About the Author: Walter Leland Cronkite Jr. (1916–), American journalist and radio and television news broadcaster, was among the preeminent group of correspondents and commentators developed by CBS News after World War II. He anchored CBS Evening News from 1962 to 1981 and hosted the Universe TV series. He was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1985.
On January 30, 1968, communist troops launched a surprise offensive throughout South Vietnam. The South Vietnamese capital of Saigon and the U.S. embassy were attacked for the first time. A few weeks...
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"Chicago: A Post-Mortem"
By: Frank Reuven
Date: December 14, 1968
Source: Reuven, Frank. "Chicago: A Post-Mortem." TV Guide, December 14, 1968, 106–115.
About the Author: Frank Reuven (1920–) was born in Montreal, Quebec. After earning a Masters in Journalism from Columbia University in 1947, he worked for three years as a newspaper writer before joining the NBC television network. He had a long career with NBC News, first as a writer and editor and then as a producer of news programs, including the Huntley-Brinkley Report. He was president of the NBC News Division from 1968–1973 and again in 1982–1984.
Every four years the nation's political parties hold conventions to nominate presidential and vice presidential candidates. These conventions typically serve to introduce and showcase the parties' candidates on national television. But 1968 was not a typical year. Antiwar and civil rights demonstrations had become a fact of life as Americans disagreed about the Vietnam War and measures to take to end racial discrimination. These unresolved questions ensured that there would be disturbances at both the Republican convention in Miami and the Democratic convention in Chicago. If the former was marked by unrest, the...
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The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
"C.B.S. to Drop Smothers Hour; Cites Failure to Get Previews"
By: Jack Gould
Date: April 3, 1969
Source: Gould, Jack. "C.B.S. to Drop Smothers Hour; Cites Failure to Get Previews." The New York Times, April 3, 1969.
"The Smothers Brothers Redux: A Bittersweet Reunion"
By: Andy Meisler
Date: January 31, 1988
Source: Meisler, Andy. "The Smothers Brothers Redux: A Bittersweet Reunion." The New York Times, January 31, 1988.
The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour debuted on CBS on Sunday night in February 1967 opposite the longstanding hit NBC show Bonanza. Although CBS never expected the show to succeed in that time slot, the intention was to appeal to a "hipper" and more youthful audience. Against all odds, the show turned out to be a hit in its first season, knocking off the top-rated Bonanza in the ratings. Time magazine dubbed the youthful Smothers brothers "hippies with haircuts." The show tried to appeal to the divergent tastes of the increasingly polarized older and younger generations. It introduced...
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"TV: An Awesome Event"
By: Jack Gould
Date: July 21, 1969
Source: Gould, Jack. "TV: An Awesome Event." The New York Times, July 21, 1969.
On July 20, 1969, half a billion people all over the world watched on their television sets as Neil A. Armstrong, an American astronaut, climbed slowly down the ladder of his lunar landing vehicle and stepped carefully
The Apollo 11 moon landing was the climax of an intense thirteen-year competition in space exploration between the Soviet Union and the United States, which had begun with the orbiting of the Soviet Sputnik, the first artificial earth satellite, in October 1957. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy, in the...
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Spiro Agnew and the Liberal Media
"Television News Coverage"
By: Spiro T. Agnew
Date: November 13, 1969
Source: Angew, Spiro T. "Television News Coverage." Speech delivered in Des Moines, Iowa, November 13, 1969. Reprinted in American Rhetoric from Roosevelt to Reagan Halford Ross Ryan, ed. 2nd ed. Prospect Heights, Ill.: Waveland Press, 1987, 212-219. Available online at "American Rhetoric," ; website home page: http://www.americanrhetoric.com (accessed May 27, 2003).
"Agnew Tells Why He Says What He Says"
By: Spiro T. Agnew
Date: November 17, 1969
Source: "Agnew Tells Why He Says What He Says." U.S. News & World Report, November 17, 1969, 20.
About the Author: Spiro Theodore Agnew (1918–1996) entered politics as chief executive of Baltimore County in Maryland. In 1967, he was elected governor of Maryland. In 1968 he was nominated for the vice presidency on the Republican ticket with Richard M. Nixon. Reelected with Nixon in 1972, Agnew was forced to resign—the first vice president in American history to do so—on October 10, 1973, after a Justice Department...
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"Future of Non-commercial TV"
By: John Macy
Date: December 8, 1969
Source: "Future of Non-commercial TV: Exclusive Interview with John Macy, Corporation for Public Broadcasting." U.S. News & World Report, December 8, 1969, 94–97.
About the Author: John Macy (1917–1986) graduated from Wesleyan University in 1938, and then began a lifelong career in public service. He worked for the War Department during and after World War II, then served in the Civil Service Commission and other government agencies. He was appointed the first president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 1969 and served until 1972.
Public broadcasting on television and radio in the United States in the mid-1960s consisted of about a hundred local stations with little public money and no national programming. In 1967, two major foundations moved to fill this leadership vacuum. The Ford Foundation sponsored a nationally televised educational program on Sunday nights, and the Carnegie Commission published a report on the future of educational television. This report persuaded President Lyndon Johnson to make not-for-profit television and radio a part of his Great Society programs. The Carnegie Report became the basis for legislative proposals to create a...
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"The First Debate over Presidential Debates"
By: Frank Stanton
Date: September 15, 2000
Source: Stanton, Frank, "The First Debate over Presidential Debates." Newsweek, September 15, 2000, 11.
About the Author: After Frank Stanton (1908–) graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University, he was hired by CBS Radio to head its audience research department. He became president of CBS in 1946, a position he held for twenty-seven years.
During the 1960 presidential campaign, a series of four debates between the two candidates, Massachusetts Democratic senator John F. Kennedy and Republican vice president Richard M. Nixon, were televised nationally. Although television had been around since the 1940s, these were the first presidential debates to be televised and the only ones until 1976. Since that time, presidential debates have become a fixture in the campaigns.
Although television was in place by the time of the 1952 and 1956 Eisenhower-Stevenson campaigns, there were no televised debates for at least three reasons. First, in 1952 the number of viewers was too small. Second, in the 1956 rerun election four years later, there was indeed television advertising (including Eisenhower's famous slogan, "I like Ike"), but Eisenhower had no...
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Tell Me a Story
By: Don Hewitt
Source: Hewitt, Don. Tell Me a Story: Fifty Years and 60 Minutes in Television. New York: Public Affairs Press, 2001, 104–113.
About the Author: Don Hewitt (1922–) was a correspondent in Europe and the Pacific during World War II. Later, he became night editor of the Associated Press's Memphis bureau. He began his career with CBS News in 1948 as an associate director of Douglas Edwards with the News, then served as producer-director of the show for fourteen years. He later became executive producer of the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. He created Sixty Minutes in 1968 and was the executive producer until his retirement.
In the fall of 1968, the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) was at the peak of its reputation for news. A long tradition of journalists such as Edward R. Murrow, Eric Severeid, William Shirer, and Walter Cronkite made the news division of CBS the champion in ratings and in awards, first on radio and then on television. But CBS's image, while serious, was also perceived as dull. This was to change when veteran producer Don Hewitt got an idea for a new kind of television journalism that would put actual human faces on the information the...
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