News

    In Presidential Campaigns, History Repeats Itself

    Exhibit chronicles media's role in political races

    Faiza Elmasry

    Politicians have always used every available medium to get their message out to the voters. A new exhibit at the Newseum in Washington DC, explores the news media’s evolving role in broadcasting that message - from newspapers to Twitter.

    Americans are bombarded with political messages every four years, but political campaigning was much different when William McKinley ran for president in 1896.

    “Hundreds of thousands of people, newspaper reporters among them, would come to McKinley’s house in Clinton, Ohio," says Patty Rhule, manager of the Newseum, an interative museum which focuses on the history of news. "From his front porch, he would deliver his speeches, explaining what his stances were and why he wanted to be a president."

    McKinley’s Democratic opponent, William Jennings Bryan, took a different approach.

    “He hit the road," Rhule says, "traveled thousands of miles reaching different people with his message.”

    Bryan lost, but the news media has played an increasingly important role in presidential campaigns.

    “A lot of people will not ever get to see a presidential candidate, they travel a lot, but the media provides a way for people to see them, to bring those candidates into their living room.”

    'Every Four Years'

    The Newseum exhibit, “Every Four Years: Presidential Campaigns and the Press,” examines the evolution of presidential campaign coverage through historical pictures, old newspapers, videos and dozens of artifacts and campaign memorabilia.

    The exhibit drew the interest of Newseum visitor Camila Romero, 22, a communications major visiting from Uruguay. “I’m interested in politics, and media plays a very important role on the democratic process.”

    Among the artifacts in the exhibit is a microphone President Franklin D. Roosevelt used to deliver his “fireside chats,” which calmed the nation during the Great Depression years.

    "He had such a way with the radio," Rhule says. "People felt that he was talking to you individually rather than talking to millions of people across the country.”

    Appealing directly to voters

    The rise of television brought a major change to the campaigns. Then Vice Presidential candidate Richard Nixon’s 1952 “Checkers Speech”, about his dog, showed TV’s potential for appealing directly to voters.

    “He was accused of getting money from a secret rich man’s fund," Rhule says. "He decided to go directly to the people and gave his famous Checkers speech, in which he said that the only gift he had ever received was a dog his daughter liked and he was going to keep the dog no matter what people said.”

    Eight years later, when Nixon ran for president, the medium’s potential for alienating voters was made clear during a televised debate between Nixon and John F. Kennedy

    “On TV, Nixon didn’t look as good. He had a dark beard. Kennedy was very handsome and tanned," Rhule says. "So people who watched the debate on TV felt that Kennedy had won the debate, while people who listened on radio had a different story.”

    History repeats itself

    Visitor Alexander Macina, a political science major from Albany New York, was interested to see evidence of how history tends to repeat itself.

    “I like the historic parts of the exhibit," he says. "In fact, that shows, in the past, campaign media dealt actually with somewhat similar issues to the ones we deal with today.”

    Today, campaigns have moved beyond television and reporters. With the rise of the Internet, candidates can now take advantage of direct and instant communication with voters.

    “Candidates can tweet, they can have Facebook posting to their fans, they can do video on You Tube," Rhule says. "As the speed we thought that the news can’t get much faster than the CNN 24/7 campaign. Now it’s more like the 60-second campaign, tweets coming up every minute, every second.”

    However, as with TV, Rhule cautions there's a downside to using social media.

    “We all know how the wrong information can get out on the Internet much more quickly and it’s much more harder to tamp it down," she says. "You have mocking videos that go on the Internet that candidates wouldn’t have control over.”

    "Every Four Years” isn't just about the past. The Newseum is following the 2012 presidential race and plans to continually update the exhibit as the campaign unfolds.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora