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.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora