The PBS special “War of the Worlds,” about a radio drama by the same name that caused mass hysteria in the 1930’s was really interesting and showed how powerful a medium the radio was during the Great Depression. The documentary showed the issue from many angles to show precisely why the idea of Martians landing in New Jersey and terrorizing people was able to inspire so much panic in America.
One of the things that I really liked was the fact that they had televised interviews with some of the people who went through the events, as well as dramatizations of what the interviewees were talking about. They had visuals of people ironing and children playing around the radio, which helps with understanding, since people watching today might not know what an old radio might look like or what a cherished object it was for the families that owned them. The black and white visuals help to make the documentary more realistic, because it looks like everything is happening in the 1930’s and the dramatizations makes it feel more like a current documentary, so it feels more like something that people of today already enjoy and relate to.
Another thing that the documentary did that I liked was that it explained the events that showed why the hysteria was possible and how it got as widespread as it did during the Great Depression. It showed both the fear and uncertainty that the Great Depression and threat of a new world war inspired and the importance of the radio in Depression era America. The explanation of how people were unwilling to give up their radios or not buy new ones showed how people felt a need to be connected to the rest of the world that could not be satisfied by newspapers alone. People did not just want to read the news, they wanted to be able to hear the newscasters and president talk about what was going on. They wanted to have the entertainment of the comedies and dramas that radio provided and they were willing to still buy radios at a time when many Americans were struggling to feed themselves.
The documentary also talked about how the Depression and threat of World War 2 made people fearful and more willing to believe in terrifying things. The documentary showed snippets of speeches by Adolf Hitler and talked about the uncertainty of the Depression to really bring home the fact that people were willing to believe that aliens had landed in a field in New Jersey because they had already heard and seen some unbelievable and horrible things. This was not just that people were gullible back then. It was the fact that the country had entered an era where people were not just reading what was going in the world through the paper. They were experiencing it through radio. The great thing that the documentary did was that it took this event of mass hysteria and framed it in such a way that viewers could see the different angles of the issue. It was not just gullible people listening to the radio and panicking. It was the result of a climate of fear and new forms of mass communication.
I think that to solve the diversity problem and the problem of underreported news in the world, I would like to make use of the World Wide Web. I would have a main place where the company is created and where the main center for PR and marketing takes place. However, I would like to have satellite places all across the country and world. How it would work is that people working in the satellite places would have their own editorial staff, writers, reporters and photojournalists, but they would be sending the finished products to the main website.
Since sometimes people who were born and raised in a certain area can sometimes not report on something because of cultural reasons, or because they are used to something and don’t think it’s really newsworthy, I’m going to periodically send some journalists from one region to another to get a fresh perspective of certain things that are going on. This might even get some readers interested in news from different religions if they are a fan of a certain reporter and that reporter goes to another place. I would have to make sure that there are still people that are native to the region that I’m covering, especially on the editorial team, because they will have insights on certain topics, like what to be sensitive about covering or if covering a certain something might pose a safety concern in that country or region.
Since a lot of countries speak different languages, I’m going to have to make sure to staff plenty of people who can translate articles into multiple languages. I want local people of a country or newspaper to be able to use my news service as a source for local news source as well as a source for international news. I want to have a news source that is capable of being translated into any language, so people from any country or region can get the same experience that people in the US would. I want subbed news reports on television, as well as reporters who are fluent in different languages to report in different languages. I want to put in accommodations such as text descriptions of pictures so that disabled people can enjoy my news as well. People visiting the site would be able to choose the language that they want from a drop down list for articles, tv segments and radio broadcasts. All news: print, radio and television can be seen online and there will be no hard copy print news because it seems to be falling out of favor and I want my news to be sustainable for the environment. What I’m going for is a news source that is as intimate as local news, but able to be understood by everyone. If we are to bring attention to things that are not covered in today’s news, we need to have many different kinds of perspectives working on news, so that someone will notice and post something that others might miss or not think is important.
The media mogul that I would like to emulate the most would probably be Katherine Garham. She had real faith in her journalists and didn’t back down from what she thought was right, even if the thing that her journalists were covering was as intimidating as government conspiracy. That’s the quality that I would like to prioritize in my company and all of the satellite companies around the world. Because that’s what I think that good journalism is. Journalists following their gut instincts as well as the basic journalism ethical guidelines. And editors need to trust their journalists and reporters to know when something seems weird/wrong/newsworthy and back them up if need be.