In the fall, Journalism History conducted an undergraduate student essay contest. Students answered the question that our podcast hosts ask at the end of every episode: Why does journalism history matter?
Celia Hammond, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, submitted the winning essay. Additional essays will be posted each month throughout 2020.
The history of journalism and media has had a huge impact on our world today, serving as the link between our past and our present. When I personally think about how news history has impacted the world today, I think about when we learned about muckraking in class. One of the most important muckrakers that we discussed was Ida Tarbell, who exposed John D. Rockefeller and his Standard Oil Company. People like this paved the way for the media today, making people use journalism as a way to find out the truth, good or not. Today, there is almost no limit to what or who people can do stories on in journalism and media.
Another thing that I both read in the textbook and heard in class that I believe really paved the way for journalism today was Yellow Journalism. This was a style used by journalists like Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, in which they sensationalized their stories in order to be more dramatic. Hearing about this makes me think of news stories that I hear today, especially in tabloids. One current day example that comes to mind is when the transgender man had a baby, and all of the tabloid titles were along the lines of “First Pregnant Man” or “Man Gives Birth.”
Journalism and media history has also shown that what started out as print media has escalated into how we get our news and entertainment today. Print media escalated into magazines, and then online newsletters, which is prevalent today. The invention of the telegraph has had a lot to do with linking our past and present. Prior to the invention, there was no way to electronically communicate over long distances. This led to an array of new technologies that make communication easier and have given the media more platforms. Some examples include the telephone, the fax machine, and the internet.
These inventions have also paved the way for inventors to branch out into other technology forms, like the television and radio. Overall, it’s important to acknowledge how these old ways of communication are the root of all we have today, and although other ways are growing in popularity, those original forms of communication will never really die.