Mass Entertainment in the 1920's

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Radio dominated the Twenties, with roughly 3 million Americans owning radios by 1923. Most listeners still used crystal sets with earphones to receive news and bulletins, advertising and music. The appeal of the spoken word attracted audiences and advertisers, while publishers were forced to improve upon its image to retain profits. Television, capable of wireless transmission of moving pictures, was first demonstrated in 1926, combining sight and sound to rival radio.

Tabloids continued being characterised by scandal and crime. Also termed "jazz journalism", this style of media reflected the decadent lifestyle and adventurous spirit of the time. The press hounded Charles Lindbergh, the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic, from New York to Paris in 1927. His daring 3610-mile journey, completed in 33.5 hours, made him an international hero. It was an era when anyone who appeared in the press became an instant celebrity.

In this decade, termed the "Roaring Twenties", jazz journalism was dominant. The press was often preoccupied with entertainment, rather than concentrating on reporting significant stories or intepreting news events. Typical stories glorified celebrities and built up sordid events, such as murder trials, into national sensations. The tabloids thrived on controversy. To gain readership and denounce tabloids, respectable publications would print opinions, such as: "Tabloids are turning readers into witless gossips, gutter vamps and backyard sheiks".

A variety of new publications emerged in the Twenties. To keep up with the face pace and maximize personal effeciency, De Witt and Lila Wallace started the Reader's Digest magazine, a "condensation" of news and entertainment articles taken from other magazines and reprinted. The first issue was printed in a Greenwich Village basement in New York City, 5 Feb 1922, by DeWitt and his wife, on a borrowed $5000. By balancing national politics, health and social and business articles, the...
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