Communication in the Presidential Primaries: Candidates and the Media, 1912-2000

By Kathleen E. Kendall | Go to book overview

Chapter 6
Through Media Eyes in the
Age of Television: News Media
Shaping of the Primaries, 1972-1992

The screen brings into view those imponderables of character and personality which make us decide, not whether we agree or disagree with somebody, but whether we can trust him.
--Hannah Arendt, 1960

Television ownership grew by quantum leaps in the 1950s, going from 4.6 million households in 1950 to 60.1 million households by 1970 ( A. C. Nielsen Company, in Hiebert, Ungurait, and Bohn, 1985). By 1972, television and newspapers were the dominant news media, followed by radio and newsmagazines.1 This research focuses on television and newspapers.2 The definition of which medium was "dominant" varied with the beholder. President Nixon arranged to have the nightly network television news videotaped in a weekly summary for his viewing, so convinced was he of the power of television (Nixon Project, National Archives). Millions of Americans sat down each night to watch the national news, and the names of anchors and commentators such as Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Eric Severeid, John Chancellor, and Howard K. Smith were household words.

Among journalists, however, the print reporters were at the top of the hierarchy. According to Timothy Crouse ( 1972), who traveled with the media and interviewed them, it was hard for the print reporters to take anyone seriously "whose daily output lasted two minutes on the air" (p. 151). "There were only a handful of reporters who everyone in the business agreed were exceptional," he said, and they all worked for newspapers, particularly for the New York Times and Washington Post

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