After witnessing the complete social and cultural upheaval of the 1960’s, Americans did not expect to see as an exciting of a decade in the 1970’s. However, new forms of media and an increased dependence of the news allowed people to witness a decade in which journalism expanded and pushed new boundaries.
The 1970’s displayed the country’s dependence upon newspapers as a primary source of their daily information, along with a shift in government coverage. Two of the decade’s biggest stories came early on with the New York Times’ reporting of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 and the Washington Post’s coverage of Watergate scandal between 1972 and 1976.1 The 70’s displayed a trend of younger journalists with higher ideals. Instead of simply covering the news on the government with blind-eye objectivity, journalists began actively seeking ways to analyze and expose any type of dishonesty in its actions.2 The Pentagon Papers scandal turned the American public against the Vietnam War and exposed the U.S. Government for its lies and false promises over the past decade.3 Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s reporting of the Watergate scandal is considered one of the high points in American investigative journalism. By using a variety of sources and interrogating U.S. government officials inside the White House and the FBI, Woodward and Bernstein published numerous stories showing proof of am illegal presidential cover-up and “dirty trick” politics.4 The Watergate scandal demonstrated how new technology began to aid the delivery of the news in the 1970’s. Television, for example, began to take off, as people were now able to easily see and believe the news in a timely fashion, rather than simply reading about it. On August 8, 1974, President Richard Nixon formally reigned from the office of President in a televised broadcast.5 It was a defining moment in American history, as Nixon became the first president to willingly give up his position. The televised address confirmed that Americans were beginning to view television as a primary source of information. Nightly news broadcasts also expanded upon their success from the 1960’s. Each of the three major television networks had their own recognizable and respected journalists helming their newscasts. For example, Walter Cronkite, who was hailed as “The Most Trusted Man in America,” anchored CBS. NBC's team of John Chancellor and David Brinkley were a strong second, while ABC had a newscast helmed by Howard K. Smith.6 Of course, the increased reliance on television in turn slightly decreased the importance of radio in the daily lives of Americans. Television and newspapers firmly became the leading news outlets during this time. Thus, because there was not as wide a variety of viable news sources (online, cable television, etc.), audiences were not as fragmented as they are today in finding the news.7 The 70’s also brought forth economic and social changes in the lives of American citizens, which made obtaining the news even more relevant during the time. Major trends included greater cynicism of government, advancement in civil rights, increased influence of the women's movement, and environmental awareness.8 During the course of the Vietnam War, Americans suffered through a slight depression. The news, in television and paper, became a way to constantly stay aware of national and international proceedings.9 The war led to a heightened interest in daily-televised news. In turn, the Vietnam War became commonly known as the “Living Room” War, as families were able to see the violence occurring overseas.10 In addition, the Watergate scandal, Roe v. Wade in 1973, the Fall of Saigon in 1975, among other major news stories, were all landmark historical moments—thus making the news more culturally relevant than ever at the time. A new “norm” in journalism also appeared during the 1970’s decade known as “New Journalism,” or “literary journalism.”11 The works in the new genre were...
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