Politicians and Mass Media

Educator Guide | Activity
ABC-CLIO Database: American Government
Theme: Political Behavior
Topic: Mass Media and Politics
Skill: Analyze
Process: Compare and Contrast
Inquiry Question: How did new types of mass media affect the way politicians communicated with the public?

Objectives: By evaluating the types of media illustrated students will compare and contrast the different ways media has influenced a politician's public message.

What students will discover in the sources: The reference article examines the major forms of mass media and their roles in politics in the United States from the 19th century to the present. A photograph showing President Theodore Roosevelt speaking to reporters at his home illustrates the relationship politicians have to newspapers and the press: a relationship that is mediated but gives access to broad readerships. Audio of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's fireside chat on the 1933 banking crisis exemplifies how the radio allowed presidents and the people to have a new form of access to each other. A video with excerpts of the first presidential debate in U.S. history to be aired on television shows how the new medium affected the way 1960 voters saw candidates John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. And a tweets from President Donald J. Trump illustrates how politicians use social media platforms like Twitter to access new audiences and make quick, unmediated statements to the public. Together, these sources help students understand how changes in mass media have given politicians new ways to communicate their messages.

From the American Government Database

"Adlai Stevenson Campaigns on Television," https://americangovernment.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/1165242.

Image of Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson waving to the crowd during a television broadcast of a campaign speech in 1952.

"Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in 1973," https://americangovernment.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/787364.

Image of reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, whose reporting of the Watergate case won a Pulitzer Prize, sitting in the newsroom of The Washington Post on May 7, 1973.

"Dwight D. Eisenhower Campaign Commercial, 1952," https://americangovernment.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/569519.

Still frame from one of the "I Like Ike" animated campaign commercials produced by the Disney studios for Dwight D. Eisenhower's presidential campaign in 1952.

"New York Times Co. v. United States (1971)," https://americangovernment.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/209713.

Text from New York Times Co. v. United States (1971), where the U.S. Supreme Court determined that, under the First Amendment, the government could not prevent newspapers from publishing the Pentagon Papers without offering proof of identifiable harm that would result from publication.

"Franklin D. Roosevelt Addresses Nation in Fireside Chat (1937)," https://americangovernment.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/1165241.

Image of President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivering one of his popular fireside chats, a series of evening radio talks to the American public.

"Walter Cronkite: Criticism of U.S. Policy (1968)," https://americangovernment.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/1352192.

Excerpts from the CBS Evening News television broadcast of February 27, 1968, in which anchor Walter Cronkite voiced the opinion that the Vietnam War was going "to end in a stalemate."

Professional Resources

Luhtala, Michelle, and Jacquelyn Whiting. News Literacy: The Keys to Combating Fake News. Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited, 2018.

This guide explains how to nurture students to become critical researchers and offers a wealth of resources and classroom-tested lessons that educators in grades 7–12 can use in their own libraries and classrooms.

"Mass Media and Politics" Classroom Activities, History Hub, ABC-CLIO, https://historyhub.abc-clio.com/Support/Content/2042776.

With key questions and resources, this multipart activity focuses on the media, how it is used in relation to politics, and its effectiveness in informing the public.

"Teaching History: Public Opinion and Mass Media," History Hub, ABC-CLIO, https://historyhub.abc-clio.com/Support/TeachingHistory/?databaseId=AMGV&categoryId=245&topicId=109&subId=1022&entryId=2154178&tab=3.

Activities, teaching tips, and key questions on mass media in American politics, including curated pacing guides with primary and secondary sources on the development of political opinion and mass media in politics.

Reference Books

Banville, Lee. Covering American Politics in the 21st Century: An Encyclopedia of News Media Titans, Trends, and Controversies. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2016.

This encyclopedia provides a real-world guide to American political journalism and news coverage in the 21st century, from the most influential media organizations and pundits to the controversies and practices shaping modern-day political journalism.

Manning, Martin, and Herbert Romerstein. Historical Dictionary of American Propaganda. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2004.

From the French and Indian War in 1754 to the present war in Iraq, this historical dictionary provides more than 350 entries, focusing primarily on propaganda created by the U.S. government throughout its existence.

Stempel, Guido H. Media and Politics in America: A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2003.

Exploring where mass media and politics intersect, this text examines the major events, people, controversies, and resources of political communication from the Revolutionary War to the election of 2000.

Willis, Jim, and Anthony R. Fellow. Tweeting to Freedom: An Encyclopedia of Citizen Protests and Uprisings Around the World. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2017.

This book provides an insightful and comprehensive look at the issues regarding the use of the Internet and social media by political activists in more than 30 countries—and how many governments in these countries are trying to blunt these efforts to promote freedom.

Nonfiction for Students (6-12)

Bernstein, Carl, and Bob Woodward. All the President's Men. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2014.

Published just months before President Nixon's resignation, All the President's Men revealed the full scope of the scandal and introduced for the first time the mysterious "Deep Throat" figure.

Doyle, Eamon. Media Bias and the Role of the Press. New York: Greenhaven Publishing, 2019.

The viewpoints in this volume explore the obligations of the media, the rise of satirical news outlets, and how to interpret news in a post-fact era that has led to accusations of media bias and condemnation of certain media outlets by powerful elected leaders.

Hallock, Steven M. Reporters Who Made History: Great American Journalists on the Issues and Crises of the Late 20th Century. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2010.

This readable account looks at a series of historical chapters in American social and political history through the eyes of ten giants of journalism: Helen Thomas, Anthony Lewis, Morley Safer, Earl Caldwell, Ben Bradlee, Georgie Anne Geyer, Ellen Goodman, Juan Williams, David Broder, and Judy Woodruff.

Willis, Jim. 100 Media Moments That Changed America. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Press, 2010.

From the launching of America's first newspaper to YouTube's latest phone-videoed crime, the media has always been guilty of indulging America's obsession with controversy. This encyclopedia covers 100 events in world history that exploded in the public eye when the media stepped in.

Literature & Film for Students

Pakula, Alan J, dir. All the President's Men. 1976. Burbank, CA: Warner Home Video, 1997. DVD.

The true story of how Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncovered the White House involvement in the Watergate break in.

Spielberg, Stephen, dir. The Post. 2017. United States: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2018. DVD.

The film follows the country's first female newspaper publisher and a hard-driving editor as she investigates a cover-up that spanned four U.S. presidents and the unprecedented battle between journalist and government.

Stinson, Donald M, and Karen Kohlmeier. Downstairs at the White House. Boca Raton, Florida: Eastern Harbor Press, 2017.

Narrated by 17-year-old Don Stinson, who accidentally gets a job in the White House during Watergate, this story follows the development of the scandal through his eyes.

Literature & Film for Educators

Chomsky, Noam, Peter R. Mitchell, and John Schoeffel. Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky. New York: New Press, 2002.

An introduction to Noam Chomsky's views on the politics of power discusses third-party politics in the United States, the suppression of dissent, U.S. foreign and domestic policy, and the role of the media.

Eshbaugh-Soha, Matthew, and Jeffrey S. Peake. Breaking Through the Noise: Presidential Leadership, Public Opinion, and the News Media. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011.

This book explores historical examples of how presidential leadership of the public most typically occurs through leadership of the news media.

Halberstam, David. The Powers That Be. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000.

Pulitzer Prize winner David Halberstam investigates the rise of the American media in the 20th century. By examining landmark events such as Franklin D. Roosevelt's use of the radio and the unprecedented coverage of the Watergate break-in, Halberstam demonstrates how print and broadcast media as a whole helped shape public policy.

Starr, Paul. The Creation of the Media: Political Origins of Modern Communications. New York: Basic Books, 2006.

In this wide-ranging social history of American media, from the first printing press to the early days of radio, Paul Starr shows that the creation of modern communications was as much the result of political choices as of technological invention.

Websites & Mobile Apps

"Campaign Outreach and Strategy," Pew Research Center, https://www.pewresearch.org/topics/campaign-outreach-and-strategy/.

Articles, infographics, and polls analyze media usage and campaign outreach—from cell phones and internet to social media platforms—by voters and political campaigns during the 2000s.

"The White House and The Press Timeline," The White House Historical Association, https://www.whitehousehistory.org/press-room/press-timelines/the-white-house-and-the-press-timeline.

Timeline shows major interactions between the presidency and the press from the 1800s through 2009.

MLA Citation

"Mass Media and Politics Activity: Politicians and Mass Media." ABC-CLIO Solutions, ABC-CLIO, 2022, educatorsupport.abc-clio.com/Support/ActivityOverview/2254589. Accessed 8 Dec. 2022.