The Moving Media

02 Mar

I was incredibly excited when two weeks ago we reached our unit on Civil Rights. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s-1960s has always been one of my favorite sections in US history; however, I was never consciously aware of what exactly ignited my passion. I understood the ideals of the movement  and its landmark place in history as result of hundreds of years of tensions in the struggle for equality. I could not, however, fathom why similar monumental events as the Civil War did not kindle the same reaction.

Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their peers, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change. -Robert Kennedy

Over the past few years I have accumulated a collection of books and documentaries surrounding this era, enthralled by every demonstration, legislative, and Supreme Court ruling involving the movement. I especially admired the leaders for their unwavering valor and fervor, characteristics that Robert Kennedy would describe as “moral courage.”

As I perused through the pages our Civil Rights chapter, it finally dawned on me what exactly intrigued me about this period. As our book attempted to explain the effectiveness of the movement it mentioned the exaggerated demonstrations that spread to all corners of the nation through televisions. This, of course, had been mentioned in my history class, but it wasn’t until I turned the page to the iconic picture of the African American attacked by a police dog that I realized that all along it was the media coverage that had grabbed my interest. I, like many Americans of the 50’s and 60’s could not help but to be appalled by the scenes of the police pressure hosing a crowd or touched by the footage of the March on Washington. The picture of the Mexico City Olympics in 1968 of the African American athletes still gives me chills.

Mexico City Olympics-1968

In many ways we take media coverage for granted these days. Any American can turn on his or her television set and chose from tens of different news stations, even ones that cater to his or her political interests. In fact, media has become so omnipresent that it has turned into a nuisance in some cases. Just as easy as it is to find coverage of current events, stories of Lindsey Lohan’s arrest or Kim Kardashian’s divorce are even closer at hand. With certain news stations preaching biased accounts and the growing popularity of E-news and reality TV shows, I adapted a negative connotation for “the media.” I began to undervalue the effects television coverage can have in advancing a cause and believed all positive effects were out shadowed  by lack of true news. Overall, I glad I have gained an appreciation for the media through the analysis of this unit. Through the six weeks in this course I have learned that new technology is not only a tool for learning but also an implement for revolutions.


Posted by on March 2, 2012 in Media, Rights and Liberties


13 responses to “The Moving Media

  1. Judy Arzt

    March 4, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I suppose the media was better appreciated during the Civil Rights Movement in some ways because the audience did not have to sort through a proliferation and onslaught of media channels to get at the news. As we look back on that era, it is also the media that has captured the era for us. In that sense, the media plays a critical role in preserving our history. Movies for instance help us relive events as if we witnessed them firsthand. Television segments that have been preserved of the times help us to relive history. Many movies have been made after The Civil Rights Movement to capture that time period. Have you seen “Mississippi Burning,” for instance? Although many have criticized the film for accuracies, the film also helps those who did not live through the time period get a real feel of what it must have been like to live under the constant threat of the KKK if one were protesting the injustices and Jim Crow laws. The footage we have of speeches such as those of Martin Luther King Jr. would not exist if it were not for the media capturing these moments. It is one thing to read about events of the time period, but it is quite another to see them captured visually in film or television rebroadcasts. I also agree with your comments about the media becoming a nuisance. Every day the media picks up on trivial event and plays it up as important. We need to be critical viewers of the media, but this can also be taxing at times, as our mind always has to filter and ask questions.

    • julia528

      March 8, 2012 at 4:54 pm

      Hey Judy Arzt,
      “Mississippi Burning” is such a great moving and amazing example of how powerful films can be. I remember how emotional I was after watching it and I have to completely agree with you that it really made younger generations, like myself, aware of the severity of the segregation and racism of the time. As you pointed out, in light of the importance and success the movie had in conveying tramas of the era, the historical accuracy is secondary in judging the movies value. However, regarding inaccuracies, it is important, as you mentioned, to be critical in processing what we see in movies, papers, and on the news. For example, with the recent Kony 2012 movement, if people are not informed and educated in the cause they are supporting, the campaign could easily turn into a mob with “heads enough but no brains.” The media can produce wonderful results, but it can also be misleading and it is therefore important to not only be rather skeptical of what we see, hear, and read, but also look at stories from more then one source.


  2. Lauren

    March 4, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    Thanks for your post! Your observations about how omnipresent the media is remind me of how important it is to think critically about what news is being presented and especially how it’s being presented. We must be discerning and not believe everything we read or see. Keep your eyes open, read between the lines, find several stories about the same event to make sure you’re getting all sides of the story (I’m sure you are already in the habit of doing this!) Also, enjoy your class(es) with Mr. Gwaltney! He was one of my favorite teachers at Chaminade and I can tell that you’re learning a lot from him!

    • Mike Gwaltney

      March 4, 2012 at 9:11 pm

      Lauren – so great to hear from you! I’m always impressed how social media helps us all stay in touch through the years. Thank you for commenting here on Julia’s post – you’ve given her some good advice, from a former Government student who knows her stuff!


    • julia528

      March 8, 2012 at 5:01 pm

      Hey Lauren,
      Thank you so much for the advice and comment! I completely agree with you that it is important to look through multiple sources. You can never be sure if what you are reading/seeing is completely unbiased. Thank you so much again! I love APGov and I am not only learning but also getting involved in so many things that I never would have if I hadn’t taken this class.

  3. Lupe Fisch

    March 4, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    Thought provoking post, J. It made think of how much things like social and liberation movements are changing now that anybody with a phone can broadcast to the world what’s happening in front of them. Do you think social media and the ubiquity of access to it makes the kind of moral courage Robert Kennedy harder or easier?

    • julia528

      March 9, 2012 at 12:34 am

      Thank you so much for your comment. I also really enjoyed your ending question. I think in many ways peaceful social movements have been enabled by more advanced technologies. Social networks like Facebook have allowed activists and leaders to reach out to a worldwide community.In this way the accessibility of social media has made displays of moral courage more common as people are more willing to participate, as seen in many of the crisis and revolutions happening in the Middle East. However, it is also important to understand that although sharing a video or liking a page can contribute to the cause, these simple acts do not automatically qualify you as social activist. Thank you again for you comment

  4. Beth Ruekberg

    March 5, 2012 at 11:28 am

    What a thoughtful blog post. It’s great that you took a step back to try to determine the roots of your interest and the evolution of your reaction to the media. I wonder if you have examined the media impact on the Selma March – Bloody Sunday? – the press was there to film the event and in the 26th minute, you can see how the media interrupted regular programming to show the awful events that unfolded. This is a powerful example of how the media helped an event grow exponentially and bring about much-needed change. That is not to diminish the crucial work of those on the ground…but the media served the public well.

    • julia528

      March 8, 2012 at 11:25 pm

      Thank you so much for the link. I remember studying the Selma March and the subsequent Civil RIghts Act of 1965 in school, but I always love to learn then the short summary in the textbook. I think it was most surprising to hear that the SNCC did not initially want Martin Luther King Jr., since many history books teach the protest as if it was under his command from the beginning. Ultimately, his presence drew increased media attention to the march. The footage was absolutely devastating and was a great example of violent footage can capture the attention of the nation. I think you also brought up such an important point that it is just as much the medias doing as the people who ran the movement. It can be easy to forget one while you are celebrating the other. Thank you again for you comment

  5. Daniel K.

    March 6, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    Maybe one reason why things such as the Civil War didnt have the same effects as the Civil Rights movements during the 60’s is because of when the events occured. I imagine that if something like the civil war were to occur in this decade there would be a much faster resolution and different outcome.

    • julia528

      March 9, 2012 at 12:43 am

      Hey Daniel, Thank you so much for your response. I definitely agree with you that the course of the Civil War would be dramatically changed with the media coverage that wars receive today. In many ways, Vietnam was the first American war with substantial video coverage and one of the things that shocked the American public were the substantial death rates; however, the Civil War had around 12 times the casualties as Vietnam. Many of the pictures available from the Civil War, as seen in Ken Burns’ documentary, are horrifying. If these had been more widely circulated during the 1860’s I am pretty positive they would have had a dramatic effect on the public opinion of the war.

  6. Megan Riney

    March 6, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    I really liked this post, especially because the Civil Rights Movement and the media coverage associated with it interests me so much as well. I agree that media coverage has become somewhat of a nuisance in today’s world, and I think that is very clear in today’s election process. Do you think the in-depth media coverage is becoming a deterrent for today’s voters since the majority of coverage focuses on the negative aspects of candidates?

    – Megan Riney

    • julia528

      March 9, 2012 at 1:03 am

      Hey Megan,
      Thank you for your comment and great question! I do think that often media coverage will focus more on the faults of the candidates. Furthermore, some of these critiques are not only misrepresentations of events, but also designed to expose supposed flaws about the candidate that theoretically have nothing to do with his or her efficiency in office. Media can be used for wonderful and peaceful means, but slander and gossip is an abuse of the media that draws away from the importance of the platforms of the candidates. Another major issue regarding media networks is that much of the coverage, especially on the more biased networks like MSNBC and FOX News, is designed to convince the viewers that those at the opposite end of the political spectrum from you are people that are so inherently different from yourself that it is unreasonable to compromise with them.
      Thank you again,


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