The Power of the Press

Must See TV….

As with the arrival of the Internet, the arrival of radio in the 1920s shook up the world.

The new medium was extraordinarly powerful.

Now, for the first time in human history, one voice could be heard by millions at the same time.

What followed the invention of radio was a bubble. Everyone got into the radio business. Everyone was starting radio stations.  It was a mess. A bit like the web.  There were also stock offerings in radio companies and radio related companies that came and went as fast as dot-coms.  There are economists who tie the crash of 1929 and the subsequent depression to the irrational exuberance that radio and its ilk brought to the economy. Perhaps we are seeing the same kind of retrenchment post Internet.

Radio changed the world forever.

Because of what it could do.

It could take one person’s voice and place it in millions of homes at the same time.

This was a  truly remarkable achievement, and one that was to have extremely powerful and long-lasting implications.

Prior to radio, most people had never heard nor seen a President of the United States.  Presidents were decided not by popular election or primaries, but by a small group of powerful men.  Presidents were elected by The Electoral College, whose electors were originally selected by the State Legislatures.

The notion of a popular election was…. not even a notion.

Radio, with its power to broadcast (an entirely new concept) gave enormous power to anyone who could get their hands on a microphone and get into people’s homes.

And because the medium was new, the effect of having a voice come out of a box in your livingroom was mesmerizing.  No one had ever heard this before. Ever.

Andrew Jackson might have been able to talk to a few hundred people at a time.  Perhaps a thousand people heard Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.  Now millions heard the same speech.  This then, was the power of radio. It empowered the few.  And while it might have started as a tool to project the thoughts or words of those in power already (think c-span), it soon was captured by those who might never before have had a voice.

Hitler was such a person.  A mesmerizing speaker, apparently, had it not been for radio, his speeches might have been limited to a few Munich Beer Halls.

But this was not to be the case.  For Hitler’s oratory skills were the perfect match for the new medium of radio. And so, this failed painter and near homeless failure in only a few years was catapulted to the pinnacle of power in Germany.

The first celebrity of the new medium.

Without radio, it would never have been possible. It would never have been possible for so rapid a rise for a complete unknown.  Radio magnified Hitler a million fold overnight.

The technology of radio mandated that one voice would be elevated above all others and would come to dominate. That is the nature of broadcasting.  One voice… one person.. sent out to millions.  Radio heralded the arrival of the Superstar – Milton Berle, Amos and Andy and Hitler.

Household words in a moment.

From nothing.

Now, we have a new technology, and one that will have equally powerful ramifications as did radio.

But the technology of the web does not militate for a superstar. The web is not about one voice to millions. It is, rather, about millions of voices to millions.

In the world of the web, everyone is on an equal footing. And everyone get’s their say.

We don’t have to listen to one message – whether it is I Love Lucy or Hitler.

As the web percolates out into the general population, and as more and more people take advantage of the technology and upload their ideas as well as download them, we will see a true democratization of ideas.

I think the days of Katie Couric are drawing to a close. Note because she is bad, but rather because now anyone can be Katie. And why not?

What does Katie have (or Matt… or Sarah Palin for that matter), that I (or millions of others) don’t?

The answer, in the world of the web… is… not much, actually.

4 responses to “The Power of the Press

  1. I imagine the detractors will make some derisive comeback around the idea that these examples are “Professional Journalists” and are trained as such – whatever THAT means.

    Democratization of information via the internet has more or less removed all elitist titles and one of the side effects currently is the lowering of both a living wage around the profession and the lowering of the bar in most instances on the quality of the content produced presently.

    I’m the first to admit I still have a ways to go – as do many who are choosing to blaze their own trail in the solovj paradigm – but as I look at the content I shot a year ago compared to what I’m shooting for my paying clients now, it’s much better – and will be even better next year – Detractors rant around the notion that they know what they’re doing as professionals, but they always seem to miss the point around when they first started out – they didn’t know jack squat around the profession and it’s only through time and experience that they are where they are at today – same goes for those of us who ascribe to working as solo video journalists/shooters in this very young visual content creation field.

    The net has removed the constraints around meeting broadcast technical specifications which allows content creators the flexibility to do what they do – and not have to conform to some rigid set of expectations set by a select few.

    The same old diatribe from the detractors who frequent this site should remember that when they get on their soap boxes deriding the solovj paradigm.

  2. Five years from now Cliff if you are still shooting and improving you will look back on the VJ phase, shake your head and wonder why you ever believed in that poor quality garbage.

  3. Just a thought.

    What do Katie, Matt and many others have that you don’t have?

    A large audience that continually comes back for more of what you do.

    That is what makes the difference.

    On broadcast television as well as the web.

    Those that get the audience, get the money.

    Those that don’t, well, you know all about that already.

    Cliff knows even better.

  4. Again we insist here on comparing apples with oranges. There will always be ‘Katies’. But the Vj is also now a big player. And sometimes they’ll compete and sometimes they’ll serve entirely different markets. There is room for both. There should be room for both.

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