Communication and Politics

By Tom Burke

(Word Count = 621)

Both George Washington and Barrack Obama used political speech to secure their respective elections.  However, the form and audience of political communication has greatly changed in recent centuries.  During the founding of the United States, political speech was either delivered in person to a live and relatively small audience or published in newspapers.  A politician’s audience consisted of the propertied and educated elite as political debates were frequently conducted behind closed doors.  It was not until the publication of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense that political speech was successfully aimed at the general public.  Events in the 1830s also helped to increase the scope and scale of political communication.  “First, the property qualifications for the right to vote were dropped, expanding the electorate to all white men.  Second, the United States was beginning to industrialize, migration to large urban centers was accelerating, and literacy rates were climbing” (155).  Improvements in printing technology also allowed newspapers to cut costs and vastly increase circulation.  Not only did this amplify a politician’s voice, but it allowed newspapers to achieve financial independence which, in turn, allowed them to be politically independent as well.  The press’ shift from (at least professed) political neutrality to (at times, blatant) partisanship can be readily ascertained by tuning into today’s Fox News or MSNBC cable networks, which clearly expound conservative and liberal viewpoints on the whole, respectively.


The advent of the telegraph followed by that of radio, television, and finally the Internet immensely changed a politician’s communication with the general public.  For instance, FDR took full advantage of the radio by using his “Fireside Chats” to inspire hope, quell fears, and establish a more personal relationship with the American public during WWII.  His tactic was most effective because “For the first time, thousands and then millions of people could actually hear a candidate’s voice” (157).  Barrack Obama, presumably cognizant of the media’s power to influence voters, used social media to help secure his infamous 2008 presidential election over John McCain.  In order to see the massive differential of “social media savviness” between candidates, it is helpful to consult some statistics.  Obama outmatched McCain in numerous categories including Youtube Video’s Posted (1,819 to 330)Facebook Wall Posts (495,320 to 132,802), and MySpace Comments (147,630 to None Listed).  A visual representation of these differentials and more can be viewed at


Why was Obama’s social media presence integral to winning him the presidency?  Well, as with radio, the Internet allows a politician to establish a more personal relationship with his or her constituents.  Yet, this updated version of FDR’s “Fireside Chats” has many advantages.  Rather than simply hearing a candidates voice, potential voters can see the candidate in action.    While a candidate’s stance on issues is surely weighed by voters, recent evidence suggests that voters are swayed by a candidate to the extent to which they can self-identify with a candidate.  Next to speaking with the candidate in person, streaming interviews and speeches online is the best way to get a sense of a candidate’s personality.  The Internet also allows potential voters a forum to actively participate in discussions at any time, rather than having to passively listen to political speech.  Furthermore, unlike the radio or television, Internet broadcasts do not have to be streamlined for a general audience, and therefore, can incorporate far more political material.  Finally, as blogs and videos may be uploaded for free, candidates are now able to expound their views without having to incur severe financial burden.

There have been immense changes to political communication since the birth of the United States and, for better or for worse, it seems that the American public will encounter their candidates virtually instead of through the radio or printed word.


Final Exam question # 2 by christie Costello

Word count 614

 In the article, “Democratizing Television? The Politics of Participation,” author Henry Jenkins gives sight to how the public’s participation in television production has changed political media. Perhaps one of the most influential innovations for this type of mass media is, “Current,” a cable news network that Albert Gore launched in 2005 so that young people could participate as citizen journalists in the “production, selection, and distribution” of the network’s programming. (Jenkins 277) Still, Jenkins questions whether Gore truly intended to hand over the means of production to the public or use  this form of media to further democratic ends. (278) But, Gore claimed that even though his television network may not be perfect, it let him put his belief that “enabling audience-generated content had the potential to diversify civic discourse” into practice. Current, along with the web services,,, and blogging, allow media makers to gain publicity in the web, without owing any money to wealthy network owners. However, Jenkins points out that even with public involvement in t.v. production, that mass media is far too concentrated to fully address the public’s relationship to popular culture, and often side with those “opposed to a more diverse and participatory culture.” A concentrated mass creates a large drawback for the public to reach a more democratic medium that Gore and web services intend for.  

 Although television production could be more democratic, there have been many noteworthy advances in the industry both recently and since the second half on the twentieth century. For instance, one  recent progression is the shift from satellite and cable television to online television. Unlike satellite and cable, which requires a monthly t.v. plan, people can watch online videos simply if they have wifi. Also, online streaming allows people to watch limited advertisements or skip them altogether, which is only possible with cable and satellite with a prepurchased plan like TVO. In the article, “Online video Finally Chipping Away At Broadcast TV,” author Stacey Higginbotham points out the social opporuntities that online t.v. provides. She states, “people like their television content more when they can comment on it with friends. And people are certainly watching their TV while engaging on Twitter, Facebook and other networks as the following chart shows.” satellite and cable television don’t provide convenience of limited advertising and social connections that online videos do, it still has progressed since the 1960s. For instance, in 1967, the Corporation for Broadcasting was established, making public t.v. the most watched channels. Now, however, cable and HBO television shows override public television as the most watched. Additionally, in the 1960s,  “one third of all network programs were taped, a third were filmed, and the remaining shows were produced live.” Today, we have a wider range of what we can watch, like almost any sporting event, meaning more television is aired live.  In the 1970s, CBS canceled shows that they considered, “rural,” and “unsophisticated,” such as The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres. In contrast, it doesn’t seem a concern for t.v. broadcasting networks to provide viewers with sophisticated shows, as reality television, perhaps the most trendy television genre, has a reputation for its crudity and profanity. This dominance in reality television also is a major difference from 1980s t.v., as it this decade was known as “the golden age for primetime soap operas,” and includes the soap opera series: Dynasty, Falcon Crest, and Knots Landing.

     Social media sites like YouTube definitely help enhance participation and democracy, as it gives the public the opportunity to share anything and everything about their lives. Allowing everyone equal chance to broadcast video, not soley large network corporations, creates a more diverse world of television.




Final: Democratizing Television

by Jovanna Haddad (592 words)

TV pic

The essay “Democratizing Television” introduces readers to the idea of participatory culture in television. It is no surprise that a political figure such as Al Gore is behind the idea, as his hopes are directly correlated with the fundamental principle of this country—to create a more democratic relationship with our media while creating community with each other. Whether this is a political feat or not, the efforts behind Al Gore’s ideas are worth noting. The launch of the cable news network Current created a pathway for viewers to not only consume the news, but also help produce the content with the extended ability of selecting the best matters to be aired. The latter idea, Al Gore hoped, had the “potential to diversify civil discourse” (pg 278). Despite his what appear to be earnest efforts, there is an unshakeable inclination to question why. Why is this necessary in television and why do politicians suddenly care about creating community? To our relief most of the reason for media convergence, convergence representing a paradigm shift from medium-specific content toward content that flows through multiple channels, appears to be economic (pg 279). The primal reasons are to exploit the advantages of media conglomeration, create multiple ways of selling content to consumers, and cement some degree of customer loyalty during a time of high media fragmentation. In a practical sense, the movement by corporate leaders and politicians with large wallets to “democratize television” is nothing but a coined phrase to make more money. But are there still potential benefits, or better yet and inevitably unruly trend dictated by the public?

In a study conducted in 1991 by W. Russell Neuman, he examined if people’s engrained habits to how they interact with media would stifle the potential progress in a participatory relationship. His results were conclusive in predicting a culture that was not ready to embrace such progress. Fast-forward to today, post Web 2.0, and the exact opposite is arguable—new technology is deeply explored by local techies, and new information about products is most likely released on consumer-generated blogs rather than official company websites. Despite the dark story of the birth of media convergence, consumers are proud to take their role as producers of content as communication with media is becoming two-way. Marshall Sella from the New York Time’s could not have put it in better words, describing “…a man with one machine (a TV) is doomed to isolation, but a man with two machines (TV and a computer) can belong to a community” (pg 280).

The online format of TV has been largely driven by fan culture and their connection to the TV shows on screen. The textbook observes Fandom as a balance between fascination and frustration, both being vulnerable to the passions of the voices of their following (pg 281). A participatory TV culture helps support just that. In the period of the 60s to the 80s, this was not possible with television, unless your idea of participation included yelling to unresponsive moving images. Broadcast was traditionally a monologue and us consumers were acknowledge as the “grateful viewer”, as Henry Jenkins the author of “Democratizing Television” puts it. Now, even at home participation with TV is likely by way of reality shows such as singing and dancing competitions, and emotive interactions with reality stars. Social media sites are largely conducted for the sake of shares, followings, and generating content that is intended to reach the public, and has become a leading platform in measuring ratings and likeability of TV shows, their plots, and characters.

Final Exam Question #1

Elizabeth Scefonas     

Word Count: 556.

            With the coming of the new technological age emerged a major shift in the communications industry. The advancement in technology, business theories, economic models and human thought all opened up a multitude of pathways for media mediums to flourish. After the American War of Independence the role of the press in society, particularly newspapers, experienced a massive change. At the close of the war in 1783 there was an estimated number of 43 newspapers operating. The importance of print papers during this time is reflected in the First Amendment of the U.S Constitution that guaranteed freedom of speech and the press (pg. 319). The invention of steam engines in the 1830’s allowed print media to be produced more rapidly and in higher quantities at a relatively inexpensive cost. The increase in access caused an increase in literacy throughout the nation, which in turn spurred a rise in demand for the product. As papermaking technology became more efficient newspaper chains emerged in order to cater to a growing desire for the public to receive immediate and in depth coverage of events. These chains had enormous influence over the public and were able to collectively produce complex stories to a massive number of people.

            Following the initial boom of the newspaper industry they began to experience some setbacks. Starting in the 1990’s print news saw a decline in readership that can be attributed to the overwhelming growth of technology. Information that was once valued for its permanence and credibility quickly became valued for its convenience and utility.  Many chains lost classified advertising during this time to online e-commerce sites such as and (pg. 263) which was economically detrimental. Technological convergence allowed for quick and easy access to information and a decreasing need for attention span. With less people purchasing newspapers, companies began utilizing multimedia resources by covering certain topics online. Although this was able to cut production costs and maintain followers, the online business model was slow to adapt. Significant generational differences and increasing competition caused immense pressure for newspapers that some argue they may still not recover from. 

            To provide adequate coverage of events and to keep up with technological convergence many newspapers have developed high-tech and extensive online branches. The Baltimore Sun for example uses multimedia and reader participation as part of it’s strategy to converge. Some features of the website are access to videos, pictures, text, search abilities, and links to other sites. These all give readers the ability to access information in different ways that most convenience them. For example instead of purchasing a printed newspaper and reading a lengthy article, one can now watch a “recap” video online within seconds. Instead of flipping through a hard-copy, people can search for the exact story they want to access and view it immediately. Convergence has also made users have a more predominant role in the media. Instead of idly receiving messages we now want to interact and broadcast our own ideas. The Baltimore Sun provides readers with the ability to participate in the news. Commenting features, “ask the editor”, polling, subscription access, and the ability to submit op-eds are all examples of how the paper incorporates the public. By using media technology in this way papers are remaining viable. As the communications industry is changing so is human thought and how we process information. Image

Final Exam, Newspapers

969771_10151398521476712_785450529_nBy Margaret Dawson

Word Count: 1323

Despite its start in the late 17th century, newspapers truly started to gain their relevancy in the late 18th century, particularly during and after the Revolutionary War.  The first daily newspapers were published beginning in the 1700s mostly with local circulation and dealing with political discourse and debate. They also had the added caveat of being geared toward the mercantile elite. However, after American Independence and our constitution, in 1791, the first amendment to the constitution was ratified which guaranteed “freedom of speech and the press and the right of the people to assemble peacefully” (King 319). There were also significant technological advances that came: in 1825, the first cylinder press was used in the United States, which allowed for growth in papers and readership. Also, by 1835, steam engines were used for an even greater increase in circulation. With the advent of faster technology that allowed for not only a higher publishing rate but also an increased amount of publishing, the cost of newspaper production went way down and even allowed for newspapers to be sold for a penny thus coining the phrase “penny press”.

The most important technological advance for the newspaper was in 1830 with the employment of the telegraph. This machine allowed for more timely news coverage and increase in the area which news could cover. The newspaper was especially important regarding news coverage of the Civil War in the 1830s. It was in 1866 that the first transatlantic cable was successful in transmitting news from Europe to be published in American newspapers. In the early 20th century came the rise of professionalization in newspaper journalism. With that came the expectation of objectivity within reporting; that is, in the 1923 publication of the “Canons of Journalism” by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (founded in 1922), came this statement: “News reports should be free from opinion or bias of any kind” (King 319). Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, newspaper continued to hold captive the public opinion with the creation of newspaper chains that could publish opinions that aligned with those of U.S. markets. However, many felt that newspapers weren’t publishing the opinions of the people; this opinion was by no means, a new idea as local newspapers had been circulated since the early 19th century. They held a special place for immigrants coming to American as a way to either sustain their culture or learn of what was going on back home. Also, they were extremely significant in Civil Rights issues as many black papers were in response to white newspapers and also were important to the rise of female rights.

A different kind of media was starting to come to the forefront of a means of communications, and that was the TV; the first electric one premiered in the 1939 World Fair. It wasn’t until the 1950s and the rise of cable television that newspapers really started to face issues and competition. Originally, in terms of news coverage, the television seemed to beat the newspaper in terms of timeliness. While newspapers would publish several editions at different times of the day, they seemed to not be able to compete with the rapid nature of the television. With the growth of television’s presence in American households came TV’s influence in politics when in 1952, VP Richard Nixon became the first politician to address the American public directly. In 1960, he also went on to lose the first televised presidential campaign. News coverage via television was giving the public access to more content that newspapers seemed to not be able to provide as readily. Newspapers also came with a higher cost of production. Each task was becoming more specialized; this happened around the same time as the rise in professionalization and thus the cost of hiring and then production increased. Also, as the American public became more used to the rapid nature of television, their attention span decreased, as did their interest in substantially longer texts. USA Today tried to appeal to the changing minds of the American public with bold graphics and shorter stories and was successful. Other newspapers weren’t as lucky and as a result of the increasing costs of production and the decreasing readership, they have had to cut departments and certain features from their daily editions.

It is in convergence that newspapers have really started to see their biggest decline. In terms of convergence, there has been technological convergence in which there are more computer-based platforms that allow for all media to be played in a digital format on different devices. Also, though, industrial convergence has become an issue; while previously, each industry had developed a certain organizational structure and an audience to go along with it, as time goes on, the generational differences show that the current generation is less inclined to read newspapers and has a greater tendency towards online media. Many of the news forms have started to become equal in terms of reputability and forms of communication have been criticized for not making the digital transition quickly enough. Specifically, online newspaper business models have been slow to develop which has greatly affected the readership of newspapers. Because print newspapers are not as quickly or easily accessible as online forms of journalism, people more readily access these online versions, preferring the most up-to-date news in the quickest and simplest medium possible. That is one of the main reasons that newspapers have been suffering with the digital age. The current age has a tendency towards instant gratification and the need for the latest and greatest and therefore our attention span has become greatly shortened and along with that, too, has been our patience.

We as a public have become so in tuned to the world around us and in such great desire for current events that with such internet capabilities, we don’t have to wait for news reporters to cover stories as citizen journalism is becoming more and more popular especially with the ease and accessibility of running your own blog. Not only are people able to post news but others are able to respond to what others have posted in user generated forums which can develop along side of a particular news outlet or as a group by itself, simply separate of any one source or issue. Certain newspapers have become published solely online which, economically speaking, saves a lot of money on printing costs, paper, ink, etc. However, it requires new jobs that stay up to date wit the latest technology so that the news may be properly published in a rapid manner. Not all online news sites require a paid subscription, either, which has become appealing to readers of print newspapers who are used to paying a subscription; newspapers have more so heavily come to depend on that subscriptions as a means of capital as they can rely less and less on advertisements paying for space when sites like Craigslist and eBay make for quicker and easier access.

For example, on the Baltimore Sun website, you can sign up for a digital subscription of 99 cents and under the links, the website comments that you can sign up or sign in to comment, indicating the popularity of commenting on stories. They even offer hot topics for people to respond to. The Baltimore Sun also has a link to a ‘Forum’ where there are solely user/reader generated discussion pertaining to numerous categories–news, sports, entertainment, etc. This sort of user run message board allows for people to feel like they have a say in the conversation about a particular issue, especially one they might be particularly passionate about. They might feel as though their opinion or voice is being heard. Also, in responding to other stories, users can indicate what else they might like to see published by the Baltimore Sun which would allow for the Sun to better tailor their media content so as to increase their readership/number of viewers.

The Development of the Newspaper – 640

By: Eric Hickman

Newspapers have been the principal mass medium for the American people dating back to the American Revolution, and other societies across the globe. In its early days in the British North American colonies much of the newspapers were censored and subject to governmental restrictions. However, with the American victory for independence and separation from England, the newspaper changed drastically allowing the public to distribute opinionated articles to surrounding communities, lending itself to the First Amendment in the US Constitution.


Beginning in the early 1800’s technological advances around the world helped spark a growth in the number of papers available to larger audiences. Steam engines, the telegraph, and the Linotype were developed to increase the availability and production of newsprint and to destroy distance barriers all at a lower cost (textbook 319).

In America, newspapers developed from more opinionated editorials to informative ones about political and social issues. Nonetheless, the industry produced newspaper chains that took much control over the information exposed to the public. Newspaper conglomerates began to rule the communication world up until the second half of he 20th century, where newspaper readership saw a decline facing competition from technological advancements in the mass medium world.

Radio and the television imposed constraints on the newspaper and forced many paper companies to close. Radio and television methods of broadcasting information came at a much cheaper cost. These new mediums also allowed for easier circulation and ease for the viewer of actually consuming the information instead of carrying around large pieces of paper. Furthermore, the electronic Web was created that manifested more efficient and effective ways to spread societal information to the public. For example, Web-based publications eliminated large staffs and relied on independent bloggers. All in all, the newspaper saw its end in the mid-twentieth century unless they were to devise new business strategies to make newspapers more practical.

With the rise of the Internet, the world of communications witnessed so-called convergence. This is the interconnection of old media with the new. The digital world now permits media professionals to tell stories and disseminate information and entertainment through a variety of media. It also allows users to interact and choose what it wants to view.


The convergence factor became the slow death of the print industry. The demand for content has become increased, which new media can do with instantly updating news. Newspaper information cannot be updated at will or be reversed if new developing stories appear. In addition, newspapers come at a price, whereas people want free information from convenient sources.There is not much the print industry can do to compete against the technological advancements, and eventually the newspaper audience will die out. Nonetheless, it is up to these companies on whether or not they want to go online to reach viewers, like The Baltimore Sun has engaged in.

The Baltimore Sun is a prime example of successfully utilizing the electronic web to publish information in adapting to convergence society. All businesses should look to innovate, because it is very rare that company strategies last forever. If you look at The Baltimore Sun website it contains the information that it would in a print version. The perks of the online articles are that viewers can post comments on articles and interact with other people and their opinions. You can even views videos that heighten the suspense and interest in a story. The Baltimore Sun even has its own app so followers can get instant updates on news breaking stories or view articles on the go. Since moving to Baltimore I have started following The Baltimore Sun’s twitter account, and learn much about what is going on in the city. They tweet only important information, which is what I really want to hear. In today’s world the people have the power, and it’s the media industries goal to match their expectations and demands.

Final Exam: Essay 1

Lisa Fralinger

Essay #1

word count: 661

Printing presses

Printing presses (Photo credit: Sigfrid Lundberg)

“It is difficult, indeed dangerous, to underestimate the huge changes this (digital) revolution will bring or the power or developing technologies to build and destroy—not just companies, but whole countries.”  Rupert Murdoch, chairman and chief executive officer, expressed him concern about the dramatic changes that is occurring with the printing press. He is just one of many people who is noticing the shift that is taking place in our world. The change is not only affecting companies at a rapid rate (King, Cook, & Tropin, 317).

Newspapers made their first appearance in Europe during the mid-17th century. Freedom of the press emerged during the revolutionary era. This was a time when New World colonists were fighting England’s interference in their lives and businesses (317). The First Amendment to the United States Constitution allowed for the freedom of the press. This meant that newspapers and magazines in the US had little government control whereas other countries had censorship and government ownership (317). To this day, the United States continues to gleam as a country where freedom of the press is a living concept (317).

For a number of years, the printing press was the dominant source of medium. It was not until the second half of the 20th century when newspaper industries began to notice a decline. During that time there was a sudden decrease in newspapers that were published and a decrease of people reading them. The United States had 267 fewer newspapers in 1990 than it did in 1940. By the year of 1992, there were only 37 US cities that had separately-owned daily newspapers (321). Once the economic recession in 2008 struck, it seemed as if newspapers were hit harder than ever. The recession forced many businesses to board up their doors.  There were some businesses that would do anything to survive. By doing so many reduced the size of their newspaper by making their pages narrower and making the pages thinner as well (321).

One of the biggest competitors for the printing press was television. This new phenomenon forced many newspaper businesses to end their long era of success. Television not only offered entertainment but also information as well. National networks like NBC and ABC ranked in a tremendous amount of viewers (323). These accredited news stations provided informative information to its audiences while also providing some means of entertainment. Television was a way for non-literate individuals to be able to tune into to current affairs happening around them.

Today, societies rely on the media. The media convergence changed the newspaper and print industry. This convergence can seem adverse yet there are some positive aspects.  The convergence demonstrates the process our society has in technological terms. This also allowed for more job opportunities for people. Nowadays, people want their information fast. The Internet allows for people to constantly be updated with new information about worldly affairs. With the big uprising of smart phones, people are able to access news on the go. This is a primary reason as to why the printing press could not outdo the Internet. The printing press is unchangeable and irreversible once it is out on stands, while the Internet news is being updated frequently.

The irreversible and unchangeable printing press comes with a price. Each day civilians must go out and buy a newspaper in order to be updated on current events. Even though the price of a newspaper was little to nothing, most people will take any opportunity to save money.

It is evident that the printing press has a lot to compete with the media. There is little that the printing press can do to bring back its success. Newspapers are now converging their articles to the Internet. The Baltimore Sun is an example of a newspaper that is available online. By allowing viewers to view this paper online, the company hopes to bring in user participation since media is the dominant medium in the world today.